After playing what Brendan Shanahan said was their worst game of the series, the Rangers return to New York and are greeted by their first true elimination game of the season. With that, Tom Renney appears torn between fiddling with the lineup and sticking with what got him here in the first place.
Among the items for you to consider and perhaps even discuss…
1. Nigel Dawes skated with the team for the first time today.
2. As they did in the third period, Marcel Hossa and Brad Isbister switched places for practice.
3. Thomas Pock skated alongside players not named Jason Strudwick and Colton Orr.
Here’s what Renney said on potential lineup changes: “I am. I don’t know that I’ll do anything yet. You’ve gone to war with this group to this point in time and my anticipation is that we’ll continue to do that. But I wanted to have a look at Nigel and I wanted to make sure that Pockie had a good skate and we’ll see how guys are doing tomorrow morning.”
On whether or not Hossa’s play has dipped: “I don’t think it’s significantly dipped. I think what’s happened is he’s plateaued. What he has to do – as with all of us – is find that next gear.”
Obviously, it’s impossible to tell what changes will be made. Who knows? With the Rangers, Hossa could be right back alongside Jagr and Nylander tomorrow. But for what it’s worth, Renney made a point near the end of practice to approach Pock and say something to him. I couldn’t make out what it was, but you imagine he asked him how he felt. It could mean he’s interested in using him to replace someone. And the consideration of Dawes is for obvious reasons…the ability to skate and score.
On the injury front, everyone skated with the exception of: Tyutin, Rozsival, and Lundqvist. Renney said Tyutin would be fine. Jagr joked about his health after banging knees yesterday, but he skated today and should be fine.
As far as the mood of the team, I think it spoke volumes that Jagr, Shanahan, Nylander and the other older guys all skated today. From their words, they clearly understood that they needed to set a new tone at practice and that they couldn’t do that by taking a “maintenance day.”
“It’s important for all of us to come here today with a smile on our face, light on our feet, and to not carry a heavy burden throughout the day,” Shanahan said. “We’ve done that. We had a good practice. It was chipper. None of our coaching staff, or management, or players are walking around here sulking or pointing fingers. Guys had a good time at practice today and skated hard. We’re looking forward to the Garden atmosphere tomorrow. That’s our focus.”
Shanahan and a few others apparently spoke to the team on its way to the airport about leaving Game 5 behind them in Buffalo.
“We talked about it a lot on the bus and on the plane that we have to start looking ahead instead of thinking back,” Matt Cullen said. “Especially in the playoffs, that’s probably the toughest part is staying mentally tough and staying positive no matter what happens.”
EDITED (4:47) Ã¢â‚¬â€ Here’s Renney’s answer about his on-ice personnel in the final minutes. He was asked if he wanted to get Betts on the ice in particular:
“Betts for sure, but I wanted to make sure I had my two biggest wingers and boardmen (meaning Jagr and Isbister) out and I thought that, at least initially, with Michael’s hands and his ability to finesse pucks through tight areas that we could get out over the blue line and do what we needed to do but it didn’t work out that way.”
“You take your chance on that rationale and I’m completely prepared to accept what might come my way for thinking that way, but I believe I did the right thing.”