Some tidbits and thoughts after our session with Tom Renney today:
<li>No practice today for the Rangers, which could be a surprise given yesterday’s meager showing. But Tom Renney said the plan all along was to have an off-ice conditioning session and some meetings, and said he didn’t feel the need to change course after yesterday’s 4-0 loss.
I can go either way on this one. I know there’s a feeling that the Rangers should be skating Herbies until they keel over after being outworked against the Panthers. But there’s also something to be said for giving a team that has been on the ice every day since Nov. 21 a chance to clear its head, especially with a busy week ahead.
“We’re not going to dwell on it,” Renney said of the Florida loss. “We’ll move forward. We were ready to go. Our start certainly looked like it and we have some good opponents coming up. It’s not like Tom Renney has to say a whole lot to get them ready for Pittsburgh.”
<li>The clear sentiment from Renney and the Rangers management was that Petr Prucha would be better served playing in Hartford rather than idling here, where he has been a scratch for 10 straight games. But Prucha and his agent decided otherwise, and they exercised their option to stay in New York.
“It’s a tough decision,” said Prucha, who was one of only a handful of players still hanging around by the time the media was allowed in the locker room (Steve Valiquette, Dan Fritsche, and Blair Betts, who was testing out new skates, were the other ones). I don’t know if I made a good decision or not, but I hope I have a better chance if I stay here so I can jump right in.”
I asked Prucha if the team was adamant about him going to Hartford or if it was more a case of them thinking it would be a good idea. He said it was the latter.
“It was more like, ‘Maybe it would be good for your confidence to go there and start playing again and get in shape. Maybe after that you’ll feel better,'” he said. “But I’m in good shape and ready to jump right in. I feel like it’s better to stick around so they can watch me every day on the ice and see that I’m ready.”
A player disregarding his coach and general manager’s preference could be problematic. But at least outwardly, Renney said it wasn’t an issue. Heck, why should it be? Given yesterday, I think the Rangers could use Prucha’s energy in the lineup against Pittsburgh.
“He’s in great shape,” Renney said. “But playing is important. It’s critical. There’s a difference in shape and then there’s game shape. But we’ve decided to let it go for a little while. We may come back to it. But there’s no way I could dispute his level of fitness or his effort or his attitude. Never ever. So I can appreciate why they want to be here and on the ready.”
<li>While Renney said he was unlikely to switch the lines around after yesterday, he did acknowledge a need to switch things up on the power play. And then came a curious revelation — that the coach would consider using a forward on the point on the power play.
You may recall that this was something I had asked Renney about a couple of weeks ago, and he said he wasn’t ready to go there yet. I mention this not because I’m taking credit for the idea — a forward at the point on the power play, who would have ever thought? — but because it seems to illustrate the team’s frustration with the man-advantage unit.
“I think there’s forwards who can do that job. There’s defensemen, too. They just have to do it with a certain level of confidence and assertiveness,” Renney said.
“We can look at a number of different guys. What would Zherdev be like back there? Chris (Drury) we’ve tried. What would Scott (Gomez) be like back there? What would Nazzy be like? That’s a short list of guys.”
Whether the Rangers actually throw any of those players back on the point is something to follow in the days to come. More likely is an adjustment in which Gomez is not the player consistently carrying the puck up ice since Renney acknowledges the team needs a new look.
“I think Scott does that more and more often we become too predictable. Anybody who’s scouting us could have a look at that and say, ‘Make sure we eliminate him.’ A part of the issue is to have different looks coming up the ice, which we’ve done well this year, but not consistently.”
Interestingly enough, Renney even seemed to suggest that we the media have a role in this as well. Not that he was blaming reporters, but he was saying the team’s power play problems have been so well-documented, it’s simultaneously cut into his team’s confidence and given opponents something to chew on.
“I tell you, when you read about how bad your power play is every day I’d be pressuring them everywhere. I’d be pressuring them below our goal line,” Renney said. “That takes on a life of its own. Smart coaches read clips. They read what other teams have to read about themselves and they try to find a psychological advantage there.”