Jason Brough

AP

Rangers need ‘more desperation’ down the stretch

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Henrik Lundqvist thinks the Rangers just need to battle harder.

“It’s the mindset to will yourself to win battles all over the ice,” the veteran goalie told reporters after Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Montreal. “I think this game is all about battles, and that’s been the biggest difference in our last four games — winning the battles all over the ice, in front of the net, along the boards. Then I need to come up with the big save when I have to. We need to have more desperation than the other team.”

Saturday’s defeat was the the third in the Rangers’ last four games, and it led to the recalls of Tanner Glass and Steven Kampfer ahead of tonight’s test in Tampa.

“This just gives us a little more flexibility as far as lineup decisions,” explained head coach Alain Vigneault, who also thinks the Rangers need to fight harder.

“You’ve got to compete and you’ve got to battle hard and you’ve got to battle hard for puck battles and you’ve got to win your share,” Vigneault said. “I do think that in the last couple games there in those puck battle situations, we could have been better.”

It remains to be seen if Glass or Kampfer will get into the lineup tonight, but the Rangers can expect to face a desperate opponent. The Lightning are three points back of the Islanders for the second wild-card spot, and with only 18 games remaining, time is quickly running out.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are comfortably in a playoff spot, but they’ll want to head into the postseason feeling good about their game. Last year, the Penguins made quick work of them in the first round.

“I think our focus is just on the process of getting better,” said forward Derek Stepan. “Avoid seeking results and just work as a group to get better each night. The results will come with us getting better as a group and this is a great opportunity.”

Pre-game reading: Like trades? Then you’re gonna love June

— Up top, P.K. Subban looks back at his time with the Canadiens and the significance of playing for such an historic franchise.

— For Subban, it was quite the emotional return to Bell Centre. Writes NHL.com’s Arpon Basu: “Prior to the start of the game Subban made sure to blow a kiss to Elise Beliveau, the widow of Jean Beliveau, sitting in her usual seat behind the Canadiens bench.” Subban then shed a few tears during the Habs’ video tribute to their former star defenseman. (NHL.com)

— After a fairly tepid trade deadline, Pierre LeBrun is looking forward to what could be a crazy June. What will the Ducks do with their blue line ahead of the expansion draft? Will the Avalanche trade Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog? What about all the goalies who could be on the move? (TSN)

— Another interesting history lesson from Sports Illustrated writer Alex Prewitt, who looks back on the 1919 Stanley Cup Final in Seattle, which had to be suspended due to an outbreak of influenza. Montreal Canadiens player Joe Hall would eventually die of pneumonia brought about by the flu. (Sports Illustrated)

— The latest on the Coyotes’ search for a new arena. The team has spoken with the city of Mesa, but the mayor there says it would be “premature” to say whether a Mesa arena is “realistic or serious.” In the meantime, the Coyotes still don’t know if a key piece of legislation will pass. The latest report didn’t sound too promising, and if it doesn’t pass, the money to build a new arena could be tough to find. (Arizona Republic)

Johnny Oduya is happy to be back with the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s always tough to leave a situation like we had in Dallas. It was a tough year I think for everybody. You feel some of that disappointment. To come back here with a lot of players that I played with, obviously a city I know pretty good, I feel like I got a second chance.” (Chicago Tribune)

Enjoy the games!

A rookie surprise: Dotchin earning his minutes for Lightning

AP

The Tampa Bay Lightning have clearly been in the market for a top-4 defenseman — preferably a right shot. Not long ago, they tried to get Kevin Shattenkirk out of St. Louis, only for Shattenkirk to nix the trade and end up in Washington.

While it’s still expected that GM Steve Yzerman will scour the market for a top-4 d-man this summer, might a kid by the name of Jake Dotchin give the Bolts pause in what could be a very costly pursuit?

In Wednesday’s 4-3 OT win over Carolina, Dotchin logged 20:07 and registered his fourth assist in his 15th NHL game. The 22-year-old rookie, a sixth-round pick in 2012, has been paired with the Lightning’s top defenseman, Victor Hedman, leaving Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman to form a shutdown duo.

A few weeks ago, shortly after Dotchin was recalled from the AHL, head coach Jon Cooper hinted that the youngster’s role might be increased.

“He’s earned the right to be here and he’s not playing with fear or like he’s afraid to make a mistake and that’s big,” Cooper said, per FanRag Sports. “That’s what you like and if he keeps doing this he’s going to keep playing as much (as he has) or maybe more.”

Now, whether Dotchin is the long-term answer remains to be seen. But top-4 d-men aren’t cheap, and there simply aren’t that many available.

So at the very least, Dotchin provides the Bolts an option beyond a trade.

Related: Bolts trade Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona

Hamonic activated off IR

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The New York Islanders, after a big come-from-behind win last night in Dallas, could have Travis Hamonic back in the lineup tonight in Chicago.

The Isles announced today that Hamonic has been activated off injured reserve. The 26-year-old hasn’t played since Jan. 7 due to a knee injury.

If Hamonic does return tonight, expect Scott Mayfield to come out of the lineup.

The Isles also announced that forward Josh Ho-Sang is now with the team on a regular recall. He was originally recalled under emergency conditions, which have been terminated.

Ho-Sang made his NHL debut last night, registering two shots while logging 17:01 of ice time.

“He was above average,” coach Doug Weight said of the 21-year-old. “Couple plays you can nitpick, but I thought he was excellent.”

Filppula makes immediate impact for Flyers

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Perhaps when we look back, it’ll be one of those win-win trades.

In sending Valtteri Filppula to Philadelphia, and then flipping Mark Streit to Pittsburgh, the Tampa Bay Lightning certainly got what they wanted, and that was cap space to sign their pending restricted free agents, which include Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin.

For the Flyers, they got a veteran center in Filppula, with no commitment beyond next season.

“This kid gives us flexibility because centers are really hard to find,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “Most teams have four or five centermen. This kid gives up depth and options. He is highly competitive and competes on pucks. He makes plays.”

Filppula made an immediate impact last night in his Philadelphia debut, going hard to the net to tip home a Brayden Schenn pass. The 32-year-old’s goal tied the game halfway through the third period, and the Flyers went on to beat the Panthers, 2-1, in the shootout.

“He’s a very good player on the puck and he has a heavy stick,” linemate Jakub Voracek said of Filppula, per CSN Philly. “For me and Schenner, it’s important to have the puck on our stick most part of the game.”

The addition of Filppula also allows Sean Couturier to center the third line and focus on a shut-down role. It may even take some of the scoring pressure off Claude Giroux.

With only 19 games left, it’s going to take a strong push from the Flyers to book a spot in the playoffs. According to Sports Club Stats, they’ll have to go in the neighborhood of 12-4-3 to give themselves a good chance.

But this is a team that’s already shown it can get hot and string together a number of wins.

The Flyers kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in Washington, so they’d better be ready for a test.