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Leafs Look For Second Straight vs. Rangers

Wednesday, 02.25.2009 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

Salvaging one point in Saturday's overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs was enough to keep the New York Rangers sixth in the Eastern Conference's crowded playoff picture, but it didn't help coach Tom Renney retain his job.

The slumping Rangers now continue their postseason push behind John Tortorella, who leads them into Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night for the conclusion of a home-and-home set against the Maple Leafs.

New York (31-23-7) led the Atlantic Division for most of the season's first two months and was fourth in the conference as recently as Jan. 27, but has posted a 2-7-3 record since then to drop to sixth in the East. With 69 points, the Rangers are just one point ahead of Florida and Buffalo - tied for eighth - and lead ninth-place Carolina by two.

They've collected four points in their last six contests (1-3-2), and salvaged one Sunday night in a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Toronto (22-26-12).

Defenseman Michal Rozsival's eighth goal of the season tied the game with 39.1 seconds left in regulation, but Niklas Hagman converted on the power play 3 minutes into the extra period to give the Leafs the victory.

It turned out to be Renney's last game behind the Rangers' bench, as general manager Glen Sather fired him Monday. Tortorella, who served as an assistant for New York in 1999-2000 and went 0-4 as its interim head coach at the end of that season, was hired as Renney's replacement.

"We had lost our zip at some point," Sather said. "We were a fast, puck-possessive hockey club that was determined and worked very hard and moved the puck well. We've gotten away from that and that's why we made the change."

Tortorella was fired as Tampa Bay's coach at the end of 2007-08 after the club finished tied with Los Angeles for the fewest points in the league. In six-plus seasons, though, he led the Lightning to two Southeast Division titles and four playoff appearances, including the 2004 Stanley Cup championship.

Tortorella, often characterized as a tough coach, said his new core of players will be held accountable as New York tries to earn a fourth consecutive playoff berth.

"This reputation that I just kick the hell out of people, it takes on a life of its own," Tortorella said. "As a coach you'd better understand what your team is right now as far as how they feel. They need to get a little self confidence. We're going to allow them to try to work on that and try to find a way to get a win."

New York, which plays three games in the next four nights, will try to end an eight-game road skid. The Rangers have been outscored 31-8 during that slide - their longest away from home since a 10-game road losing streak from Feb. 8-March 15, 1961. They've won four of their last six visits to Air Canada Centre, and are 1-1-1 against the Maple Leafs this season.

Toronto's Vesa Toskala has been in net for each game of the season series. He made 39 saves Saturday to improve to 4-0-2 with a tie and a 1.51 goals-against average in seven career matchups with New York.

"Toskala was playing well," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "We couldn't get anything by him."

The Maple Leafs are seeking their first consecutive wins since Jan. 29 and 31.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 25 '09NYR 1 at TOR 2 - SON. Kulemin
Feb 22 '09TOR 3 at NYR 2 - OTN. Hagman
Nov 01 '08NYR 2 at TOR 5P. Kubina
Oct 17 '08TOR 0 at NYR 1 - SOF. Sjostrom
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
N. Zherdev62162945+22940
S. Gomez57123042-94625
C. Drury62152439-112062
M. Naslund62181836-144170
B. Dubinsky6282230-57626
M. Rozsival6182129-144632
R. Callahan61131023+03920
W. Redden6131821-114320
N. Dawes5010919-31534
P. Mara5651116-27710
D. Girardi6231316-132611
A. Voros528715-912231
L. Korpikoski486511-7801
D. Kalinin5611011-92600
M. Staal62279-35000
B. Betts61538-31200
F. Sjostrom60538-102000
P. Prucha26358-31400
C. Orr62145-1214500
D. Fritsche16134-2200
E. Reitz42112-66500
C. Potter3011-1000
P. Rissmiller2000-2000
A. Anisimov1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
H. Lundqvist5226-19-713015002.53.913
S. Valiquette135-4-1333562.82.907
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
J. Blake57222547+42835
N. Antropov61202444-132462
M. Stajan55142741-84451
A. Ponikarovsky61172239+53032
D. Moore61112839+06741
N. Hagman57191736-6462
L. Stempniak55102333-62231
P. Kubina6192433-76762
T. Kaberle4942630-12831
M. Grabovski57131629-66441
N. Kulemin5491221-91011
I. White5081119+94921
J. Mitchell5651318-122500
J. Finger4741115-93900
M. Van Ryn233710+2820
J. Mayers50369-76300
A. Stralman28189+01001
J. Williams11527+2200
L. Schenn49156-144600
B. May39156+25100
J. Frogren36156-22800
A. Steen20224-4610
J. Tlusty14044+0000
R. Hollweg25022-73800
J. Sifers22022-61800
A. Deveaux20011-27500
C. Colaiacovo10011-2600
B. Devereaux3000+0000
K. Newbury1000+0200
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
V. Toskala5121-17-1015914223.26.888
C. Joseph121-6-1302063.81.854
J. Pogge51-3-1201383.95.855
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