TAMPA, Fla. — What you see is what you get from the Rangers, which has worked to their benefit throughout the year but turned out to be part of the problem during the first period of Wednesday’s 3-1 victory in New Jersey during which they were hemmed in for nearly all of the first 20 minutes while outshot 16-5.
For when the first television timeout occurred at 7:45, just 27 seconds after Brian Boyle’s goal negated Travis Zajac’s score only 47 seconds before that, John Tortorella called his team together in a huddle at the bench and proceeded to do some coaching.
“[The Devils] obviously scouted us pretty thoroughly, because they were taking away our passes up the strong-side wall, which is the way we like to come out, and were keeping us pinned in that way,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “They were cutting off our lanes, we were forcing it even when there was nothing there, so we were forced back and pinned.
“Torts told us to adjust to that, to simplify our game, be patient and not to force it. They still came hard at us, but we simplified things a bit and were able to refocus and make some changes.”
If the Devils knew the Rangers’ preferred breakout in the final game of 2010, the Lightning will sure be familiar with it, too, when they meet here tomorrow night in the first game of 2011.
So if the Rangers have been predictable on the breakout, they will have to change the pattern against an opponent they’ve yet to beat in two meetings, losing here 5-3 on Thanksgiving Eve after trailing 5-0 through two periods, and then losing 4-3 at the Garden last Thursday after an 11-round shootout.
If what you see is what you’ve gotten from the Rangers, there’s no telling what combinations of forwards we’ll see in the contest with physical winger Dale Weise stepping into the lineup to replace center Erik Christensen, who suffered a second-degree sprain to the MCL of his right knee in the second period in New Jersey. He’s out four to six weeks, it was announced last night.
If the Dubinsky-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik unit remains intact, and if Tortorella believes the Boyle-Brandon Prust-Ruslan Fedotenko line should be inviolate, that leaves six forwards of disparate talent and dispositions from which the coach will construct his other two lines.
There are Chris Drury, Artem Anisimov, Alex Frolov, Sean Avery, Mats Zuccarello and Weise, the 22-year-old who brought some jam to his first NHL match in Philadelphia on Dec. 18.