The Rangers really only have one extra healthy player around (Ryan McDonagh) and he’s not playing, so there’s really no lineup news. Same lines to start.
On Ryan Callahan:
“He’s going to get checked tonight to see if we can get the go-ahead to see if he can start skating.”
On the significance of the result tonight:
“I think all games are important. You start overemphasizing Game 41 and you get lost a little bit. I just don’t differentiate. I think every game’s important. I’ll just leave it at that.”
On where the Rangers are at the mid-point of the season:
“I think we’ve developed an identity of, when we are successful that identity sticks out. I think we’ve lost ourselves a little bit here in allowing our team to forecheck. We developed some scoring chances; I think Vokoun was the difference in the Florida game. But again, it’s in the third period where we really ramped it up. Where we have struggled of late is our turnovers and not getting the puck in and going to the strength of our team.
“But at this point in time, I think the younger players are coming along. There’s some really good things with the youth of the team. We continue to work at an identity. We’ve scored more goals this year, we haven’t given up as many. Special teams is still something — especially our power play — where we’re looking for a little more consistency. But, I like the team. I think we’re on the right track.
“It’s just that we have lost a little hardness of late, not a lot of games of late, especially early on. Our starts have been really good most of the year. Early on (lately), we have kind of felt our way through. That needs to change. For us to be a hard team, we need to allow ourselves to be in an area to be hard, and that’s our forechecking.”
On how much of that is natural ebbs and flows of a season:
“As I said, I’m not going to speak on Cally. He’s an important guy and we all know that. But you have to look by what your team is, what lineup you have, you still have to play the way you feel you can be successful. And you will have some ebbs and flows through it. But good teams get out of it. I think that’s an important part to tonight’s game — how we play. What type of game are we going to play? That’s a very important thing for us tonight. I’m not looking at the result. I’m looking at how we’re playing, and how we approach this game.”
On Weise and Zuccarello:
“It’s still too early to tell. I don’t want to talk about it, but we’ve had injuries, we bring people up, who we feel deserve the opportunity judging (by) the Hartford coaches. Where they’re at, I don’t know. I can’t judge Zucc in five games. I think his best game was his last one. Weiser, he’s a guy that we’re still trying to figure out what he is and trying to teach him what we think he is. So that’s still very early. If you want to talk about young players, it’s the Anisimovs, the Stepans. I can give you a good judge of where they’re going, but the other guys, it wouldn’t be fair to judge them right now. It’s still way too early.”
On the Eastern Conference this year:
“It’s going to be hard. The second half is always going to be … you have Tampa Bay that’s joined in, but then you have Buffalo that right now has struggled a bit. This team we’re playing here tonight, you can see them coming. I don’t know what o say about the conference. I know it’s going to be a dogfight right to the bitter end in both conferences. I think the West, 1 through 12, there’s not a discrepancy as (there is) in the East.
“But looking at us, it’s going to be a fight. I’m trying to stress upon our club — and that’s where I think tonight’s game is important — this is really kind of the beginning of the second half and we need to re-establish who we are more consistently, especially our starts, because the games are going to be tougher. The second half is going to be, it’s a grittier game, things don’t come as easy and we need to get a jump on the mindset of how we have to approach this.”
On the possibility of being much better this year and still scuffling for a spot when Game 75 comes around:
“No question. I don’t know or forecast. But I just look at, at the end of last year, for us to even have a sniff what did we go, 7-1-2, I think, our last 10 games? This year, you can’t forecast what’s going to happen. But I just know our team has to be better than we were the first half, if we want a chance.”
On pleasant surprise in the first half:
“Contributions through the lineup. I wouldn’t say that’s a surprise. I think that’s the way it has to be here. Gabby, with his injuries and in and out of the lineup, he hasn’t been as dominant. The team, the thing I like about it, and I wouldn’t want to call it a surprise because it’s something you strive for as a coaching staff: It’s a team. That’s how we win. A lot of people contribute. We’ve done some good things in third periods from different people. I think we’ve defended better than we did last year, and we’ve found ways to score a few more goals along the way. I think there’s been an improvement, but we have to be better. If we want to be where we want to be, we’re going to have to be better in the second half.”
Somebody’s phone rang in the middle of one of Tortorella’s anwers. He growled, “That’s a big fine.” He smiled, but you could tell he didn’t like it. And neither did I.