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Rangers News and Notes: GameDay Edition

So here are your Rangers News and Notes before tonight's tussle with the San Jose Sharks: ran an interesting little piece called 100 facts to know about the first 100 NHL games. The Rangers were mentioned a few times, here are those highlights:

* Great Starts, part 5. The New York Rangers' 7-1-0 record matches the best start through eight games in franchise history (1983-84). A key component to the Rangers' hot start has been their performance in the third period; they have outscored their opponents 11-1 in the final frame.

* Realizing the Dream, Part 5: New York Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto scored in his home debut against Ottawa Oct. 3 and again at New Jersey Oct. 5. The 19-year-old is quarterbacking the Rangers power play and leads all rookies and defensemen in scoring with eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight games.

* New York Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik has tallied at least one point in each of the Rangers' eight games this season. Gaborik tied a franchise for the longest scoring streak by a new Ranger set by Dave Creighton, who opened the 1955-56 season with an eight-game point streak. Gaborik ranks third in the NHL scoring race with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in eight games.

* Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar in the New York Rangers' goal, as typified by this sensational save off Los Angeles Kings forward Teddy Purcell in a 4-2 Rangers win on Oct. 14. Lundqvist has opened the season 6-1-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

* Left wing Vaclav Prospal has found a home alongside Gaborik on the New York Rangers' top-scoring line. Prospal has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his first eight games on Broadway.

* New York Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy has shown why he was among the most sought-after free agents last spring following a standout career at Boston University. The 25-year-old rookie has averaged better than 19 minutes in ice time per game and is a plus-5 in the early going. His first career NHL goal late in the second period at New Jersey on Oct. 5 was the game-winner.

I don't know why but I like these kind of stories. Glad to see Michael Del Zotto get his props from the NHL writers. Also nice to see Vaclav Prospal getting some attention--man do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning are kicking themselves right now? I mean think about it. They bought out Prospal's 3 year 10.5 million dollar contract not to play. And now he is among the league leaders in points.

Click after the jump for more.

Steve Zipay over at Newsday talks about Christopher Higgins being moved down to the third line:

Chris Higgins, struggling with just three shots in the past three games, will try to rediscover his game with C Artem Anisimov and Ales Kotalik on the third line, a combo we saw starting in the second period in Toronto.

In his four seasons in Montreal, playing mostly with center Saku Koivu, Higgins averaged 175 shots on goal and hadn’t gone more than three games at the start of the season without a goal. He has just 18 shots----three in the last three games---in eight games. The LI guy knows he's pressing and the coach said:           

"He had some good shots earlier, and then he started passing," Tortorella said after this afternoon's practice. "The thing that worries me, past couple of games, neither one has been there. From a coach’s point of view, I want that type of player, who can bring offense, to concentrate on the little things away from the puck, and his chances will come."

I will have to agree with this call by Tortorella. In the first five games I didn't mind that Higgins was not scoring because he was taking his shots when he had the lanes and he looked good. Now he just looks nervous, passing up opportunities to take shots and passing too much. I am going to bold this next statement because I think it is very significant: He is one of the only Rangers to not register a goal as of yet this season along with Aaron Voros, Donald Brashearand Michael Rozsival. Not the greatest company to be in.

Our good friend Andrew Gross talks about the Rangers last three games and how their play has to improve:

The Rangers have won seven straight, yet their play has slipped noticeably over the last two games for sure, possibly three. Certainly, they’re taking too many penalties. Certainly, their puck control has become a major issue.

So this could be the perfect time to face the Dany Heatley/Joe Thornton-led Sharks, picked by many for the umpteenth straight season to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.

"I think it refocuses the players and that certainly isn’t disrespectful to Toronto," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his team’s winless opponent in two of their last three games. "But it is what it is. We can sit here and dodge it but it is what it is. We need to be focused because that’s a pretty good hockey club coming in tomorrow night."

I will certainly agree with the penalties portion of this quote. I have been saying for a long time that the Rangers are taking too many penalties. This one is going to be tough tonight, no one is questioning that.

Andrew Gross also gave the lines for tonight:

Vinny Prospal-Brandon Dubinsky-Marian Gaborik
Sean Avery-Chris Drury-Ryan Callahan
Christopher Higgins-Artem Anisimov-Ales Kotalik
Donald Brashear-Brian Boyle-Enver Lisin/Aaron Voros.
Wade Redden-Matt Gilroy
Michael Del Zotto-Michal Rozsival
Marc Staal-Dan Girardi

Andrew Gross (@agrossrecord) tweeted that Steve Valiquette will start tonight.

Backup goalie Steve Valiquette will start tonight for the #NYRangers against the #Sharks.

Good move here in my opinion. If Valiquette plays tonight then Lundqvist will have a full four days rest before facing the Devils at home this Thursday. Including that game against the Devils it's 5 games in 10 nights so we might see some more mixing and matching with the goalies.

Okay guys there you have it. Don't forget to join the open thread tonight for the game. The gates open at 6:30 and it is always a great time. We saw a few newcomers last game and we would like to see more tonight. For those of you lurking jump right in, the water is fine, we don't bite ... usually.