New York Rangers v Florida Panthers

Rangers thriving under AV, as Torts is ‘scrutinized’ in Vancouver

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It may have taken the New York Rangers some time to find themselves under new coach Alain Vigneault, but find themselves they certainly have.

Since the beginning of January, the Rangers are 22-11-2 in 35 games, during which they’ve scored an average of 3.1 goals, including blowout victories of 7-1, 7-3, and 8-4.

For context’s sake, only six teams — Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Colorado — have averaged more than three goals per game this season.

“We play a different system now where we play differently in our own end,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist told Yahoo Sports. “I think it gives us the ability to have more speed coming out of the zone. I think this year we create more chances and score more goals, which is huge.”

“We have a fast team, a lot of good skaters, so AV wants us to play in a straight line,” said forward Derick Brassard, per The Province newspaper. “We try and establish shots and we have a lot of guys on the back end who can join the rush. He wants us to move the puck fast.”

The Rangers are set to meet the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, where — in quite the twist — there was already no shortage of debate about the future of ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella.

A visit from the Blueshirts has only added to that debate, given Vigneault coached in the city from 2006-13, leading the Canucks to a pair of Presidents’ Trophies and to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.

Take Brassard’s comment about Vigneault wanting his players to move the puck “fast.” In Vancouver, that rings especially loud after an unnamed scout told The Province that the disappointing Canucks “play so slow” under Tortorella.

Similarly, Lundqvist’s remark about playing “differently in our own end” and having “more speed coming out of the zone” could be viewed as a knock on Tortorella’s collapsing, shot-blocking defensive approach.

When two coaches switch jobs, the comparisons are naturally going to be made. And at this point, most of them paint Vigneault in a better light than Tortorella.

“You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing that happened with Alain and I,” Tortorella said yesterday, per NHL.com.

“We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot, and he’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy, and rightfully so. When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized.”

Related: Is Tortorella’s system to blame for Canucks’ woes?

Video: Things get heated before Lightning – Islanders Game 3

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You know a playoff series is starting to rev up when teams can’t even peacefully share an ice surface during warm-ups.

The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to draw a red line in the sand between each other before Game 3, with the two sides exchanging a couple bumps and mean looks.

It’s … honestly a pretty amusing spectacle.

You can watch it all in the video above. Perhaps this GIF will fuel a meme or two:

Brian Boyle downplayed the exchange(s):

Penguins bring up Sestito and Oleksy

New Jersey Devils right wing Jordin Tootoo (22) fights with Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Tom Sestito (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled tough guys Tom Sestito and Steve Oleksy from the AHL on Tuesday.

This move makes a sense for a couple of reasons.

Most clearly, things are getting nasty between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, so Pittsburgh is bringing in a couple of brutes. Each player isn’t shy about piling up penalty minutes, whether that be in the NHL or AHL.

The other reason: with injuries and Kris Letang‘s suspension, Oleksy could provide some depth. Justin Schultz is motivated to prove himself, yet Oleksy provides a little insurance.

Is it the ideal scenario in a big playoff game? Nope, but if brute force ends up being a factor, the Penguins added some muscle.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Islanders – Game 3

New York Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) flights near the net with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24),center,  and defenseman Victor Hedman (77), of Sweden, during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) falls on the ice. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to take the series lead for the first time against the New York Islanders, who are trying to regain the advantage on home ice at the Barclays Center after a split in Tampa Bay. You can catch Game 3 between these teams on NBCSN (7 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Strome saga continues, will be a healthy scratch for Game 3

Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon

 

Anisimov out six to eight weeks after undergoing ‘successful’ wrist surgery

Chicago Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov tries to handle a rebound from Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Artem Anisimov on Tuesday underwent successful surgery on his injured right wrist, the Chicago Blackhawks announced.

“We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks,” said team physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement.

The news comes eight days after the Blackhawks were ousted in the first round, eliminated in seven games by the St. Louis Blues.

Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in last summer’s blockbuster deal for Brandon Saad, the 27-year-old Anisimov enjoyed the second 20-goal season of his career and fell just two points shy of his previous career best of 44 when he was with the New York Rangers.

He played the bulk of this season on a line with two highly skilled players in Patrick Kane, the league-leader in points with 106, and Artemi Panarin, named as a Calder Trophy finalist on Monday.

In March, Anisimov was named to Russia’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, although the recovery schedule outlined above should allow plenty of time for Anisimov to be physically ready for the tournament when it begins in September.

Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks, who won’t be champs in 2016