NEW YORK, N.Y. – Coach John Tortorella tweaked the New York Rangers’ top two lines during practice on Friday ahead of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.
The series is tied 2-2 after New York’s 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday in Ottawa. After a day off, the Rangers returned to practice on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have scored nine goals in four games. So Tortorella had Marian Gaborik skate with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, while Brad Richards centred Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky during practice.
“Our top guys, just like everybody, wants to be our top guys,” Tortorella said when asked about the changes.
The Senators announced on Twitter that captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was elbowed in the head by Carl Hagelin in Game 2, will remain home. Prospect Mark Stone will make the trip to New York on Friday night.
Hagelin, who was suspended three games, will miss Game 5 on Saturday night at the Garden.
The switch of lines may give the Rangers a boost, Callahan said.
“We’re not creating too much offence five-on-five, so maybe try to get a spark,” he said. “We’re all playing the same system so no matter who you’re playing with, nothing changes. We’re comfortable playing with anybody, (so) it doesn’t make a difference to us.”
The Senators have scored eight goals in the series. The Rangers have limited the offence of Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson to one goal apiece. Jason Spezza has added two assists.
“(It’s) just being aware of where they are,” Marc Staal said. “We’ve had success against top lines throughout the year. We know we have to be sharp against them. It doesn’t matter who you throw out against them, we have a good chance to shut them down.”
Tortorella said in a conference call Thursday that the third period of Game 4 was New York’s “best since (the) first game.” Staal agreed and suggested it could be a foundation heading into Game 5.
Despite Kyle Turris’ game-winning goal in overtime Wednesday night, New York outshot the Senators 14-10 in the third period and extra session.
“Going into the third, we knew we needed to have a big period (and) we did,” Staal said. “Obviously, we didn’t get a goal, get rewarded like we wanted to, but it’s something we can take into the next game.”
The Rangers return to the Garden, where they are 27-12-2. That’s second best in the East, behind Pittsburgh and seventh overall in the NHL.
“We love playing at home. We love playing in front of our fans.This building is a hostile environment for an opposing team,” Brandon Prust said. “Home ice advantage is huge to have.”
New York has lost its last seven overtime playoff games. The last time the Rangers won an overtime playoff game was April 29, 2007, against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime last Saturday night.
“Obviously, we’ve lost two overtimes, but it’s not something we’re doing that’s costing us that,” Callahan said. “Usually, it’s every other night you’re going right back at it. That’s a big thing in playoffs. You can’t be too high on a win or too low on a loss.”