For the past three seasons, the Rangers have scrambled in the second half to try to earn a playoff spot; they made the cut twice. As the team closes in on the midway point of this season, the landscape is different, and coach John Tortorella believes that opposing teams will want to knock the Rangers off their perch near the top of the East.
"When you're here where we're at record-wise, one of the better teams in the league right now, teams are going to take a run at you," Tortorella said. "That's part of our next process, being able to handle this . . . Everybody keeps asking, 'Are you a Stanley Cup team?' Which is just a crock; we're 37 games into it.
"When you are where we are because we've won some games early, it's a little different situation. We're not going to sneak up on teams. It's something we haven't been involved in since I've been here, and I'm anxious to see how we handle that."
Enough talkTortorella declined to discuss his $30,000 fine for critiquing the league and officials after the Winter Classic. "I'm not speaking on that,'' he said. "I spoke enough [Wednesday]," when he issued a wide-ranging apology.
Florida's Krys Barch served a one-game suspension Thursday night for an inappropriate comment he made to Montreal's P.K. Subban. Barch "admitted making the remark, but denies that the comment was racially motivated," said Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice president of hockey operations.
Campbell said Barch must be held accountable for the comment, which was "offensive and unacceptable."