Sean Avery

Rangers lineup shuffle: Sean Avery and Steve Eminger out, Mats Zuccarello and Matt Gilroy in

The Rangers head into their battle with the Capitals tonight shaking up their lineup a bit to perhaps give them more of an offensive spark against the Capitals.

With the Caps dedicating themselves a bit more to defense this year, the Rangers will be opting to go with Norwegian star Mats Zuccarello at forward and former Boston University standout Matt Gilroy on defense. They’ll be taking the place of Sean Avery and Steve Eminger.

The lineup moves are a bit curious as Avery can be useful as an agitator and a forechecker but for Zuccarello, normally the Rangers shootout specialist, the chance to do something big once again on a big stage is appealing as Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants shares.

“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Zuccarello said. “You don’t want to try to do too much, you don’t want to be too excited. It’s a coach’s decision and you respect that. I just try to be ready when he needs me. Whether you play three minutes or 60, you play hard. It’s a good feeling to be out there for the first game. I was pretty excited about that. I don’t look too far ahead, just focus on our game and stick with it.”

Last time we saw Zuccarello on a big stage it was last year at the Olympics for Team Norway. Zuccarello flourished playing for his country and now he’ll get the chance to do the same for the Rangers. Given how the Rangers have had their issues scoring all season, getting any kind of offensive boost would be a bonus. Unless Marian Gaborik can shake out of his season-long slump and match up well with Alexander Ovechkin, the Rangers don’t square off too well with the Caps.

They’ve gotten 20-goal seasons from Gaborik, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan, but Callahan is out of action and the streakiness is a problem. Going into the teeth of a team that goes all out to stop you from scoring makes those problems even worse.

Subtracting Avery from the mix is something Tortorella has done towards the end of the season (six times in the final 13 games) and while he can cause problems for opponents and draw penalties, his mercurial state and ability to take bad penalties of his own is reason enough not to start him. If the Caps start taking liberties with the Rangers, however, we could see him back out there later in the series.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

Matt Frattin
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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.

 

Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma express remorse after benching

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One day after getting benched for showing up late for practice — following an “epic” Super Bowl party, per Sportsnet — Calgary forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma apologized for their actions.

“We want to apologize to the organization, the coaches, our team especially, and the city of Calgary and the fans,” Gaudreau said, per the team’s Twitter account. “For us not to show up like that, and miss a game like that, it’s not professional on our part.”

“I’m a young guy and I’m a leader on this team,” Monahan added. “I’ve got to step up and take that back and earn that respect again.”

More on what transpired at Tuesday’s practice, from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley did his best to keep an epic Super Bowl party under wraps. But two of his players — Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan — arrived at the Saddledome at 10:15 am for a 10:30 Monday morning practice, and those two barely beat Johnny Gaudreau in the Saddledome doors.

Then practice started, and in the words of Calgary winger David Jones: “It’s a little embarrassing when we’re not (making) five-foot passes.”

“I think (Hartley) was pretty pissed off.”

The trio was then subsequently benched for last night’s game against Toronto, which the Flames won 4-3.

Afterward, Hartley downplayed the incident, saying “it’s not like they robbed a bank,” before adding “they’re great kids.”

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Penguins on Rivalry Night

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three
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Tonight, the New York Rangers are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at Consol, in a rematch of the ’14 and ’15 playoffs (the Blueshirts eliminated the Pens from each of the last two postseasons, you’ll recall.)

You can catch the game at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s tilt:

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night

Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’

‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Report: With Byfuglien sticking in Winnipeg, Kings ‘may now turn their attention’ to Ladd

Andrew Ladd, Anze Kopitar
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Maybe Dean Lombardi and Kevin Cheveldayoff still have something to discuss after all.

Sure, those Dustin Byfuglien-to-Los Angeles rumors are now dead — On Monday, Big Buff signed a five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets  — but a new rumor has emerged, one that suggests the Kings are interested in another of Winnipeg’s pending UFAs:

Andrew Ladd.

More, from the Free Press:

The common thinking now regarding Ladd is with Byfuglien now committed to a new five-year, US$38-million extension, the window to re-sign the captain is being slammed shut, especially knowing the young core of Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba and Adam Lowry all become restricted free agents this summer and will earn raises.

[Cheveldayoff], not surprisingly, offered no hints Monday after the Byfuglien announcement. Sources say the Jets and Ladd’s camp have kept communication open, but that hardly means a deal is close to getting done. In fact, if anything, the Byfuglien signing has only cranked up more Ladd speculation, including rumours the Los Angeles Kings — who were also thought to be in on any potential Byfuglien trade discussion — may now turn their attention to the Jets captain.

Ladd’s currently in the last of a five-year, $22 million deal with a $4.4M cap hit and, per TSN senior correspondent Gary Lawless, is seeking a six-year extension “with an average annual value north of $6 million.”

Which explains why the Jets might be forced to move him.

That L.A. is in the mix shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lombardi has a history of swinging for the fences with his deadline acquisitions — Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera, to name a few — and Ladd has a ton of postseason experience, with two Stanley Cups on his resume.

Report: Jets, Ladd break off contract talks