CALGARY – The New York Rangers’ jerseys are the same, but the guys wearing them will be largely unfamiliar to the Calgary Flames.
Following back-to-back overtime victories on the road, the Flames will welcome the New York Rangers to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Saturday (CBC, 10 p.m. ET) for a rare visit.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Flames (9-4-1) have enjoyed success against the Rangers (10-6-1), who made several changes to their squad over the off-season.
“They’ve got a completely different look than the last time we saw them,” said Flames defenceman Cory Sarich, referring to Calgary’s 3-0 blanking of the Rangers in New York last season. “There’s been a lot of guys move on and they’ve got some young talent that’s in there now.”
As coach of the New Jersey Devils for the previous two seasons, current Calgary bench boss Brent Sutter has first-hand knowledge of how tough a team the Rangers are to play against.
“They’re going to play a high-tempo game because that’s the way they’re coached (by John Tortorella),” Sutter said. “They’re going to be intense and they’re going to bring that tenacity. We’ve got to be prepared for a very tough game here tomorrow night.”
Former Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik, who signed with New York as a free agent on July 1, leads the Rangers in scoring with 12 goals and nine assists in 15 games.
“He’s tricky if you allow him room,” Sarich warned. “We’ve faced him enough in the past few seasons here and I know there’s a few of us that have handled him before, so we’ll be trying to do the same thing we’ve done for years when he was in Minnesota to shut him down.”
Acquired by Calgary in the off-season from the Florida Panthers, blue-liner Jay Bouwmeester hasn’t seen as much of Gaborik as his new teammates, but will be ready nonetheless.
“Obviously he’s rolling pretty good,” Bouwmeester said of Gaborik. “You know the kind of player he is. He’s big, fast and he can pretty much score from everywhere with his shot. You’ve just got to be aware and try to take away his space.”
Vinny Prospal and Ales Kotalik, two other free-agent signings by the Rangers, sit second and third respectively in team scoring, while rookie defenceman Michael Del Zotto is fourth.
“We know that they’ve got a solid squad and that they’ve had a good start to the year,” said Calgary forward Dustin Boyd. “They won last night in Edmonton, so we’ve got to be ready. We don’t play them much, but when we do we know it’ll be a hard-fought game.”
While the Rangers are coming off of a 4-2 road victory over the Oilers on Thursday night. The Flames downed the Stars in Dallas 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday before also needing an extra period to edge the Blues 2-1 in St. Louis the next night.
“They were obviously two big road games,” said Sutter, who commended Jarome Iginla for his efforts in the pair of victories.
“Our captain’s been capitalizing on opportunities because his overall game is better and that’s encouraging too. He’s finding his way here and he’s being rewarded for it right now.”
Iginla notched two goals, including the OT winner, and added an assist against the Stars and also scored once against the Blues.
“Now he’s rolling,” noted veteran Calgary forward Craig Conroy. “When your best player’s going, the rest of us have got to keep going too. Hopefully he stays hot and the team gets even better.”
After facing the Rangers in front of their home fans, the Flames will then head back out on the road for games against the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs next week.
“For us, it’s a big game because of the fact that we were on the road and then we’re going out again next week,” said Bouwmeester, while pointing out that the Flames will have fewer days off between games in November than they did in October. “We’re getting busy now. Now it’s going to be bang, bang, bang.”
Notes: The last time the Rangers played in Calgary was on Jan. 2, 2008 when the Flames skated to a 4-3 victory. a Eleven months after making disparaging remarks in Calgary about Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf and his girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert when he played for the Dallas Stars, Sean Avery will return to Calgary as a member of the Rangers. “I just expect (the game) to be hard fought and I don’t think anything’s going to come out of last year, but you never know,” said Conroy.