NEW YORK – It’s been 17 days since the end of the lockout allowed the Rangers to open training camp.
It’s starting to become readily apparent they’ve been skating for over two weeks. Everything about how the Rangers (3-3-0) played Tuesday at MSG in a 2-1 win over the defensively-suspect Flyers (2-5-0) was better than it was Saturday against Toronto, when they won 5-2.
“Guys individually, and as a team we’re a little more cohesive,” said forward Brian Boyle. “Still a process, still trying to get there, but it’s good to get points. When you can get gritty ones like we did tonight, that’s huge.”
“Started feeling it last game, started getting the rhythm I need to be in to play well,” said forward Carl Hagelin. “I’m glad it continued on, hopefully that’s the way I want to play every game. I have to be consistent – I can’t play the way I did my first three games.”
It’s a consistency – both on the defensive and offensive end. Even when things got tough – and they did, during a five-on-three penalty kill in the second, and a parade to the box in the third – the Rangers identity is to hold tough, and not allow their opponents time, space, or opportunity.
“We pride ourselves on being strong on the PK and being strong defensively,” said Hagelin. “We got Hank who’s always going to bail us out. Today, we did a good job being more aggressive than we had been.”
“The more games you play, the more confident you feel,” said defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who scored the Rangers first goal on a shot from the point. “As a team in general, we’re starting to gain our identity back, our chemistry a little bit with some of the new pieces we’ve brought in.”
Since the Rangers started playing games on January 19, Monday’s on-ice workout was only their second of the regular season. Before the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella didn’t directly answer whether it was more important to get days off – of which the Rangers have had three – or practices, of which they’ve had two.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves). “Going into this, I felt like I needed a couple games before I felt OK. I’m getting there. I feel like I’m making better decisions, reading the game better.”
“Maybe it wasn’t the prettiest at times, but we found a way to win and that’s one thing we did a great job with last year was sticking to our game plan, being there for each other,” said Del Zotto. “It was a huge two points for us.”
Callahan leaves with apparent shoulder injury
Just under five minutes into the third period, after a scrum near Lundqvist’s net, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan appeared to injure his left shoulder in a dustup with Flyers forward Maxime Talbot. After wrestling each other to the ground, Callahan shrieked in pain, cradling his shoulder. He skated immediately to the Rangers locker room and did not return.
“We were holding each other up and his shoulder popped out or something,” Talbot told NHL.com. “It was unfortunate. I let him go. I kind of felt it, but then I saw his face as well.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Rangers announced an MRI revealed a left shoulder subluxation. Callahan is expected to miss ten days to two weeks. It’s a best-case scenario for the Rangers and their captain in this shortened 99-day season.
“It didn’t look too good,” said Lundqvist. “You just have to wait and see what’s going on. He’s such an important player for this team. Hopefully it’s not too bad.”
Before the injury, Callahan scored the Rangers’ second goal when he cleaned up a rebound of Rick Nash’s power-play shot in the second period.
“Anytime you have your captain, especially a guy like Cally who does everything so well, makes the little plays – blocks shots, leads by example, the guys did a good job gathering themselves after he went off with that injury,” said Del Zotto.
“At the time, you can’t really dwell on it,” Boyle said. “You look at what he does for us, it’s definitely a blow. You try to motivate yourself; try to fill in for him as best you can. I think we did that – tried to do that.”
Despite playing his most solid game of the season, Carl Hagelin drew Tortorella’s wrath when he took a too-many-men penalty that led to the Flyers’ scoring on the power play.
“I focus on the dumbness of Hagelin,” Tortorella fumed. “He played a hell of a game, but that’s all washed off through dumbness.”
The Rangers have won nine of their last 10 games against the Flyers, including five straight at MSG, outscoring Philadelphia 20-5 at home over that span.
New York won 66% of the game’s faceoffs, their largest faceoff winning percentage of the season. It’s the third time they’ve won more faceoffs than their opposition – two of those times have come against the Flyers.
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