GREENBURGH, N.Y. - When does a self-proclaimed realist see the glass half full? If you're the Rangers coach, right now.
In a rosy assessment apparently made in the spirit of encouragement, John Tortorella declared Tuesday that his 20-18-5 team was not struggling but rebounding, should disregard media negativity and that there were shafts of light in the "cloud" of losing.
"We're 6-1-2 in the last nine games," Tortorella said after practice. "I'm trying to get rid of the cloud; it's a very difficult situation we went through, and we tried to get rid of that cloud. I am not going to say that we're struggling because when you get points in eight out of nine games, I have to feel pretty good about the club, and I hope the team feels good about themselves. So I don't think they're in a struggling mind-set. You look at probably eight, nine, 10 teams in the league, they're right there with us, too."
In seven of those last nine games the Rangers were 4-1-2 against the Hurricanes, Islanders and Flyers, all of whom are below the Blueshirts in the standings. The next four games, including three in four days, should provide a more accurate measure - against the Stars at home Wednesday night, the Thrashers in Atlanta Thursday night, the Bruins in Boston on Saturday afternoon and the Eastern Conference-leading Devils on Monday. Three of the four have more points than the Rangers.
Wednesday night, Sean Avery's former teammates, some of whom helped usher him out of Texas, visit for the first time since Avery returned to New York. But without a goal in 19 games and no longer desiring to feed the tabloids, he declined comment.
"It's not Sean Avery versus the Dallas Stars," Tortorella said. "We're way beyond that and I'm sure Sean is way beyond that. We've just got to have Sean getting his game back together and concentrating on helping the New York Rangers."
Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist is expected to make his career-high 17th straight start . . . Vinny Prospal, recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 28, might travel with the team but has not been cleared to skate . . . The stack of bills with the googly eyes was atop the net as Marian Gaborik filmed a post-practice commercial for GEICO.