The Rangers practiced at Carlton University in Ottawa on Friday morning before boarding a plane and heading to Montreal, where they will face the Canadiens on Saturday night to wrap up their three-game road trip.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella shuffled his line combinations during practice, putting Mats Zuccarello on a line with Brad Richards and Chris Kreider, and skating Marian Gaborik with Kris Newbury and Taylor Pyatt. Tortorella kept his No. 1 line of Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash intact, and had rookie J.T. Miller centering Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan. Veteran Arron Asham did not seem to have a set line, though the coach said afterwards he was not sure of his lineup---except that Zuccarello would be inserted into it---or his line combinations.
After meeting with the players on the ice, Tortorella skated to a bench with Gaborik, and coach and player held a fairly long one-on-one conversation. Neither Tortorella nor Gaborik would divulge what was said once practice was over.
"I just have to try and be better, try and get out of this funk and get going somehow," said Gaborik, who is third on the team with nine goals, but who has just one in his last 11 games. "We have 15 games left, so it's time to get everyone going, and of course myself. I have to make a difference, bring my game to another level. I need to be more engaged and get things going right away."
Gaborik has scored 40+ goals in two of his three previous seasons with the Rangers, including 41 a year ago. He has scored 30 or more seven times in his career, and is one of the most explosive players in the league when he is on top of his game. This season, though, has been an admittedly inconsistent one for the Slovak sniper.
As Gaborik's offensive game has been inconsistent, so, too, has that of the entire team. The Rangers were shut out 3-0 in Ottawa on Thursday night and have scored just 78 goals, the fewest in the National Hockey League this season.
"This is not one particular player offensively, it is not just Gaby," Tortorella stated after practice.
Added Gaborik, "It's a frustrating time, of course. We want to do better. But you have to put the frustration aside and just focus on the game and try to make a difference, keep working hard, and get going. I have to step up my game, that's the bottom line."
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