Rangers Notebook: Lineup changes, NHL suspensions

John Tortorella.

Rangers coach John Tortorella decided to change his line combinations in practice before Game 5, but the coach would not show his hand when he met with reporters Saturday morning.

Tortorella reunited Marian Gaborik with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov while Brad Richards skated between Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky during Friday morning’s practice at the Garden.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to go there or not,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to give you my lineup.”

Tortorella noted the trio, “really didn’t work,” in the regular season before he praised their effort in the third period of Game 4. The line finished with five shots on goal along with a missed shot and a blocked shot.

“I thought the other night, the third period, they probably played the best period of hockey for a line we’ve had,” Tortorella said. “They were probably our most effective line in that third period.”

The Rangers have scored only nine goals in the four games. Richards leads the team with 19 shots on goal. Callahan is tied with Anton Stralman for third with nine shots. Gaborik and Stepan have been credited with seven shots each. Dubinsky has six shots in the four games, while Anisimov has two shots.

“Just have to get into the blue [paint] and try to create traffic in front of [Ottawa goaltender Craig] Anderson,” Gaborik said following the Rangers’ optional skate at the Garden Saturday. “We have to do more, myself and everybody else.”

Doling out punishments

One of the themes of the NHL quarterfinal playoff round has been the league’s response to unsettling violent incidents. Nashville defenseman Shea Weber attempted to drive Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg face-first through the glass in Game 1 of the Predators-Red Wings series, and was fined $2,500. Pittsburgh Penguin Arron Asham was suspended four games for cross-checking Brayden Schenn in the throat, then punching the Flyers rookie as he lay on the ice in Game 3 of that series.   

This series has seen Matt Carkner sit a game for jumping Brian Boyle in the first period of Game 2.

“At the end of the day, the league has a job to do and players have a job to do as well. I don’t think either side is going to rely on the other to do everything,” Mike Rupp said. “It’s tough in the playoffs. Even a two-minute penalty can be the difference in a game and in a series. You just have to be smart about it.”

Rupp acknowledged that it was “difficult” for players to play on the edge without crossing the line during the playoffs. He agreed with Brandon Prust, who told Metro New York at Friday’s practice that teams develop “hatred” for one another over the course of a series.

“You just have to be willing to absorb things,” Rupp said. “Little antics over the course of a series starts to get old and you grow to dislike them.”

Gaining experience

One of Tortorella’s philosophies is that players have to experience the playoffs.

The Rangers are tied with Minnesota and Buffalo as the NHL’s third-youngest team. As such, this series marks the playoff debut for six Rangers, including Stu Bickel.
“The overall intensity is ratcheted up. The physicality is more consistent, too,” Bickel said when asked to differentiate between the regular season and playoffs. “The atmosphere is different.”

Bickel echoed his teammates, who collectively said during the regular season that games against Atlantic Division rivals prepared them for the playoffs.

“For sure. It prepares you,” Bickel said. “It’s the kind of games you want to have towards the end of the year.”

Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter
@DenisGorman for all the news on the Blueshirts throughout the playoffs.


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