The big news here at MSG is that the Playstation line has been reunited - Brandon Dubinsky will once again center Aaron Voros and Nikolai Zherdev. For those who don't remember, the trio earned that nickname early in the season when it came out they were frequent video-game opponents. Chris Drury will center Markus Naslund and Petr Prucha while Scott Gomez will be in between Lauri Korpikoski and Ryan Callahan.
And the new combinations are not a matter of generating more offense, even if the Rangers, in Henrik Lundqvist's words, are a "low-scoring team."
"What I want to do for tonight, maybe for the next couple of games, is get some defensive traction," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
Any traction might be tough tonight as the Rangers are playing the back end of a MSG doubleheader with the Knicks. Which means the bad ice of the Garden might be that much worse tonight. Shouldn't be a factor since both teams have to skate on it but expect a lot of rolling, bouncing pucks.
Speaking of doubleheaders, MSG exec Barry Watkins was recalling downstairs his most memorable MSG doubleheaders. Nate Robinson hits a last-second shot for an infrequent Knicks win during the one season Larry Brown coached the team, then the Rangers beat the Capitals on Marek Malik's famous shootout goal and Queen Elizabeth wave. Not sure tonight's going to be that memorable (Corey Potter for the shootout winner, anybody?) but the Knicks did beat (upset?) the Pistons this afternoon.
Finally, doubleheader kudos to Kenny Albert, who will slide over from the radio seat to the TV booth to do play-by-play tonight after making the drive into MSG from Giants Stadium, where he called the Giants loss to the Eagles for Fox earlier this afternoon. A great day for Kenny. He wakes up in his own bed, calls two games and can go to sleep in his own bed, too.
Live blogging below once the puck drops shortly after 7:30.
PRE-GAME UPDATE: Interesting chat with Calgary captain Jarome Iginla before the game. He was saying how he's spoken to some of Mike Keenan's former players, he wouldn't identify exactly which ones, and they've all remarked how Iron Mike has "mellowed." Iginla said Keenan is still very intense but Keenan now smiles broadly after wins and the players really want to keep that smile on his face. One contrast between the Rangers and the Flames - Calgary has not played a shootout yet this season.
UPDATE: :15, First period: As good a first shift as possible for Korpikoski-Gomez-Callahan. Callahan draws a hooking penalty from Robyn Regehr and just misses deflecting in Korpikoski's pass.
UPDATE, 4:49 First period: What's the over/under on when Colton Orr squares off against Andre Roy? And when they do, will that tie the the NHL record for fewest letters involved in a fight? Orr-Ott, I'm thinking.
UPDATE, 14:31 First period: Great non-stop action. This is the eighth faceoff of the period but the first in about 10 minutes of game action. Brandon Dubinsky got in on Miika Kiprusoff and shot high off his shoulder. That seems to be a trend, the Rangers are blasting away high, so high many of the attempts have gone over the crossbar.
AFTER FIRST PERIOD: A fast-paced first 20 minutes, which is not only fun to watch but good for deadline purposes since this game started a half hour later than usual. Renney said he wanted his team to gain defensive traction and so far so good. The Rangers are not standing around as they did in Montreal and are playing supportive hockey in front of Henrik Lundqvist. The trick now, of course, is to maintain this. And maybe, just maybe, put in a goal or two.
UPDATE, 5:54 Second period: The penalties are starting for the Rangers. Scott Gomez just held Jarome Iginla after Aaron Voros tripped Adam Pardy at 1:38. The Rangers' penalty kill is good but the problem is, too much penalty kill disrupts the ice-time distribution while tiring out key players such as Chris Drury.
UPDATE, 10:35 Second period: Defensive play of the game about a minute and a half ago. Calgary left wing Eric Nystrom was sprung at the Rangers' blue line for an apparent break on Lundqvist. But Rozsival caught up, managed to pry the puck away from Nystrom as both went down yet avoided a penalty. Rozsival's foibles are readily chronicled and booed but he should receive credit when credit's due.
UPDATE, 12:11, Second period: So far, so good for rookie defenseman Corey Potter, who's making his NHL debut. Eight shifts for 8:30 of ice time with one blocked shot and one hit. Renney even used him short-handed for a brief period. He's doing exactly what he said he needed to - "keep it simple."
UPDATE, 13:05, Second period: By the way, the Rangers are shooting Calgary, 20-7. Rene Bourque off for hooking and Adrian Aucoin just clanked one off metal behind Lundqvist.
UPDATE, 15:50 Second period: Jarome Iginla, at the right post, bangs in a rebound after Dmitri Kalinin gets beat up the boards by Michael Cammalleri. Kalinin also fails to reach a loose puck in the crease to clear it and Cammalleri is able to fight off Rozsival for the puck and get it to Iginla. Predictable chant by the Garden crowd when Dion Phaneuf is announced as having the second assist.
AFTER SECOND PERIOD: Just guessing here, but we're probably looking at another crazy third period. Gotta believe the Rangers will get one. This could go to a shootout tied 1-1. Not that the Rangers want to do this on a game-in, game-out basis. Still, Kiprusoff vs. Lundqvist in a shootout would be good theater. Or theatre as the they say in Canada. Good shooting percentage by the Flames in the second period - one goal on two shots.
UPDATE, 1:52 Third period: Now the Rangers have the Flames right where they want them. David Moss scores off Todd Bertuzzi's pass as the Rangers turn the puck over in the neutral zone. 2-0.
FINAL, FLAMES 3, RANGERS 0: Weird vibe in the dressing room after the game. Despite their third loss in four games, the players seemed encouraged about how they played, it was just a pesky matter of needing to score goals.
"We played a pretty good game but we're just not scoring goals," Henrik Lundqvist said. "We have to stay positive. We wanted to come back here and get the two points and we played a really good game but we didn't get the job done. No, I'm not worried. We did some pretty good things tonight except scoring. They got some flukey goals tonight and that's too bad because I think we worked hard for our chances and they didn't have to work that hard for theirs."
But there was a reason for that. The Rangers, for as well as they played for the most part defensively, committed two costly turnovers. And that was the game. So if the Rangers are going to be a low-scoring team, and I don't think there's any doubt that's what they'll remain as presently constituted, they can't play a near perfect game defensively, they'll have to play a perfect game, game in and game out. And that's just not possible.
Perhaps the best question in Tom Renney's post-game presser came from Sam Weinman, who asked Renney if the team needed a finisher. Renney put his head down and chuckled, briefly, then went on to say that it didn't matter, this was the team he had and this was what he needed to get more scoring out of. The thought bubble, of course, probably sounded something like this, "Yes, oh for the love of all that's good in the hockey world, yes, get me somebody who can put the puck in the net." But that's a pretty big thought bubble.