New York Hockey: Ryan Callahan

Vigneault: Kreider looks 'quick' and 'sharp'

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With the Rangers missing three key forwards and lacking any sort of offensive punch, Chris Kreider's recent recall might be his best opportunity yet to prove he belongs.

The 22-year-old winger, who was sent down to the American Hockey League after what coach Alain Vigneault deemed an "average" training camp, will get the chance to play with the team's elite. He will have the opportunity to put his speed, size and skill to use for a club that seems to desperately need all three.

[+] EnlargeChris Kreider
Derek Leung/Getty ImagesChris Kreider has an opportunity to show that he belongs in the NHL with the recent Rangers injuries.
"I think right now on our team, the players we have out, that's what we need right now," Vigneault said, referencing the injuries to captain Ryan Callahan and wingers Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin.

Vigneault said Kreider looked both "quick" and "sharp" upon his return from Hartford, where he had two goals and four points in six games for the Wolf Pack.

The former first-round pick (19th overall, 2009) skated on the wing with center Derek Stepan and alternate captain Brad Richards.

It's not certain that is where he will remain when the rangers travel to Philly to play the similarly downtrodden Flyers, but Kreider is keen to make an impression wherever he plays.

"I like to think I can play any role that they need me to. I think that's a consummate team player -- filling that hole that they need to fill," Kreider said. "I'd like to think I can do that and do whatever it takes to help the team win."

In the past, Kreider has struggled to carve out a consistent role with the big club. Though he had a dazzling debut in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, he was inconsistent during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He got off to a strong start at training camp in September but later faltered to the point of missing the cut for the team's opening day roster.

That won't be a point worth belaboring, as Kreider approaches this opportunity as a brand-new shot at helping the team turn things around.

"I think having a short-term memory is a big part of this profession," he said.

Vigneault sets tone with tough skate

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Alain Vigneault may be regarded as the genial, gentler personality when compared with his predecessor John Tortorella, but the new Rangers coach can be tough, too.

After a rigorous, hour-long practice Monday that included plenty of one-on-one and two-on-two battle drills, Vignault skated his 2-5-0 team hard for ten solid minutes.

After a series of sprints, the Rangers appeared gassed and drained of energy. Some were doubled over in fatigue. Others were still feeling the effects after practice was over.

"I can't even move," said Derick Brassard, shaking his head while sitting back against his dressing room stall.

A tough, physically-taxing session with three days of practice in between games isn't anything new. But, it was also a good reminder that the team's compete level needs improvement from its poor start.

"I think, especially after the last game, looking at the standings is a tough thing to do," defenseman Marc Staal said. "We're behind the eight ball. We need to compete to get out of this quickly and start winning some games. We need that desperation mentality when we get into a game."

Vigneault gave the team the day off Sunday following Saturday's 4-0 shutout loss in New Jersey. He was disappointed with the offensive push-back the team mustered then and is clearly seeking a response both during practice and for the games ahead.

"It's always been intense," Brassard said of Vigneault's practices. "There's no [being] bored. It's always running. Everyone expects a hard practice and that's what we like. It prepares us well for the games."

Brassard is one player that will need to elevate his game, considering the substantive list of injuries plaguing the team right now.

The team is without captain Ryan Callahan (hand), Carl Hagelin (shoulder) and Rick Nash (concussion).

Hagelin is slated to come off injured reserve October 29, but the other two top-six forwards are in murkier territory. Callahan is expected to miss up to a month with a broken thumb, while Nash's return remains nebulous.

He has not skated since suffering a concussion nearly two weeks ago and does not appear to be exhibiting any signs of improvement. According to the Rangers, there is "nothing new" with his condition.

Rangers bounce back to blank Caps

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
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Two weeks in seems a bit premature to deem any game a "must-win," but the Rangers entered Wednesday night's match against the Capitals at a critical juncture of their season.

With only one win after their five-game road trip out West to start the season, the Rangers returned to the East Coast with an important 2-0 victory over the Capitals that showed dramatic improvement from last week.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist
Patrick McDermott/NHLI/Getty ImagesHenrik Lundqvist recorded 22 saves in the Rangers' 2-0 win.
Some positives from the night:

-- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist looked like himself again after some shaky performances in the team's recent skid. The former Vezina Trophy winner looked sharp and aggressive in turning away all 22 shots faced to notch his first shutout of the season.

-- The Rangers looked far better in their own zone and managed to contain Alex Ovechkin & Co. The PK was crucial in that effort in shutting down the Caps' top-rated power-play on all four opportunities, including nearly a minute of 5-on-3 time.

-- Veteran Brad Richards continues to look like a completely different player from last season. The 33-year-old alternate captain, who had a dismal 2013 season, finished the night with a pair of assists. He leads the team with seven points in six games. Defenseman John Moore and captain Ryan Callahan were the Rangers' goal-scorers for the night.

-- The Rangers avoided what could've been another costly injury. Derek Stepan, who suffered an "accidental" hit to the head from Troy Brouwer during the game, returned to the ice in the third period. The team is already without Rick Nash, who has not played since sustaining a blow to the head last week.

Suffice it to say, it's not all rainbows and unicorns for the Rangers yet, but Wednesday was a necessary bounce-back performance that will go a long way as far as restoring some confidence to the club.

Rangers eager to get back on track

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's been one week since the Rangers' 2013-14 season took an abrupt and early detour -- a 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks that seemed to signal catastrophe.

That could have been a one-off, of course, had they recovered quickly.

They didn't.

The spanking they received from the Sharks was followed by another atrocious loss two nights later, as they were blown out of Anaheim with a 6-0 blanking by the Ducks.

There was some improvement in the team's 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, the last stop in what turned out to be a calamitous five-game trip out West, but the team has yet to shake its worrisome 1-4-0 start to the season.

"I don't think there's a sense of panic, but there definitely needs to be, and is, a sense of urgency," said team captain Ryan Callahan.

That much is true, and is certainly worth highlighting. A team can't win a division title or secure a playoff berth in the first two weeks of the season, but the Rangers have to be wary of just how big of a hole they dig.

As CBC's Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his weekly "30 Thoughts" column, only three teams from 2005-06 through 2011-12 who were four points out of a playoff spot by Nov. 1 went on to earn a spot in the postseason.

As it stands on Oct. 15, the Rangers are three points back.

Granted, it is far too early to start drawing any sort of statistical conclusions based on five games of an 82-game season.

That's good for the Rangers, considering some of their advanced stats are horrendous. The team ranks 27th in the league in Corsi with 44.6 percent (meaning they have shot only 44.6 percent of all shots taken during their games) and dead last (922) in PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage), according to hockeyanalysis.com.

Too soon to geek out and get worried? Yes, but 10, 20 games should serve as a better barometer. By then, those numbers need to improve or the Rangers' outlook will be bleak.

Changes have already come for the struggling squad, as the team waived beloved backup Martin Biron and rugged winger Arron Asham and recalled 26-year-old netminder Cam Talbot and young prospect J.T. Miller in their stead.

"When things change, you always feel the pressure," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said on Monday.

Miller's presence could put some other players' ice time in jeopardy if things don't turn around quickly. Thought the 20-year-old prospect skated on the fourth line in practice Tuesday, Alain Vigneault indicated he could push someone out of a top-six forward spot should his play warrant such a promotion.

"Some guys’ production is not where it needs to be to stay in those spots [in] the long term. So they’re aware of that," he said. "I don’t have to mention any names. But [Miller] would be one of the possibilities of moving up there if people don’t produce."

One positive change that should help the Rangers? They have returned to the Eastern time zone, where they will play three games with reasonable travel beginning with Wednesday's match in D.C. against the Washington Capitals.

The team will not play its season opener at Madison Square Garden until Oct. 28.

"I don't think we're in for a 'smoother go' but I do believe though we're going to be in the right environment on a much more frequent basis," coach Alain Vigneault said after the team's second straight day of practice at the team's training facility in Westchester. "It's easier to work on things in your building, in your environment, in your training facility, in your video room, in your workout room than it is when you're going from hotel to another."

"We're going to have a lot of time here to work on different things that I think are going to be real beneficial for our group," Vigneault said.

Cally returns, Richards rolls in Rangers win

October, 8, 2013
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In a much-improved effort compared to Thursday's season-opening 4-1 loss to Phoenix, the New York Rangers picked up their first win of the season in Los Angeles Monday night, topping the Kings 3-1 to kick off a stretch of four games in six nights.

Among the highlights in Alain Vigneault's first win as coach of the Rangers:

• Captain Ryan Callahan returned ... twice. The 28-year-old winger, who played his first game since undergoing off-season shoulder surgery, was knocked out of action temporarily in the second period after a collision with LA's Anze Kopitar. Callahan caught Kopitar's stick to the mouth -- a play that went unpenalized -- and missed the majority of the second period getting dental work done to repair the damage. The gritty forward returned by the beginning of the third period, however, and the Rangers hope they don't have to be without him again.

Brad Richards finished with two goals and went 6-for-8 from the faceoff circle in 17:49 of ice time. The 33-year-old veteran needs that sort of start to the season after an abysmal performance last year that left him in jeopardy of being bought out.

• Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was gifted with what might go down as the luckiest, flukiest goals of his career when his clearing attempt banked off the end boards and caromed off Kings netminder Jonathan Quick's stick for a blooper-reel marker in the third period. The blunder for Quick was on par with Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask's notorious gaffe during the team's second-round playoff series against the Rangers last spring.

The Rangers get right back at it Tuesday night when they travel to San Jose to face the Sharks.

W2W4: Rangers at Kings

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
3:17
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At a glance: The Rangers had a full three days to mull the disappointment of their season-opening 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night and now it's back to work as they face the L.A. Kings Monday night at 10:30 in their second game of the season. Amid a daunting nine-game road trip to start the year, the Blueshirts have a tough week of hockey ahead as they play four games in six nights beginning with the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions.

Captain’s back: The big news for the Rangers, of course, is the return of captain Ryan Callahan, who is coming off shoulder surgery this summer. The 28-year-old winger, who missed Thursday’s game, is cleared to play and raring to go. His presence will provide the Rangers with some much needed grit and energy in the lineup; the team is already without one of their other top-six forwards in Carl Hagelin, who is also recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Hagelin is on Long Term Injury Reserve.

Lineup change: Scratched for Thursday's game, rugged veteran Arron Asham returns to the lineup as it appears coach Alain Vigneault is opting for some more toughness. Making room for his return, the Rangers are expected to scratch Swedish rookie Jesper Fast. The 21-year-old swinger, who made the team out of training camp, was limited to 10:13 in Thursday's loss to the Yotes.

Killing time: Callahan's comeback will also be a significant coup for the team's penalty kill, which struggled on Thursday. The team gave up only one power-play goal but surrendered two goals soon after a penalty expired. Monday will be a tough test against the Kings, who are three for eight (37.5 percent) on the power-play in the first two games of the season.

Quick-sand: Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick did not have an ideal start to the season. The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner was yanked from the team's 5-3 loss to Winnipeg Friday after giving up four goals on 27 shots, though coach Darryl Sutter said Quick was pulled because of "momentum."

Callahan set to make season debut

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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The Rangers will take the ice at Staples Center for Monday's pre-game skate around 2:30 p.m. ET, but head coach Alain Vigneault already confirmed fans' hopes on Friday when he told reporters that captain Ryan Callahan would return for the team's second game of the season.

The 28-year-old Callahan, who missed the season opener, will be back in the lineup for the Rangers' tilt against the Los Angeles Kings. It will be his first game since undergoing off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

For a Rangers squad that dropped the season opener 4-1 to the Coyotes on Thursday, that's very good news. More than just his offensive contributions -- he had 16 goals and 31 points in 45 games last season -- Callahan's relentless, rugged game sets the tone for the entire team.

Considering the Rangers tough start to the season -- nine games on the road following a rough 1-5 showing in the preseason -- they need him back on the ice.

• • •


After a somewhat-surprising demotion to the minors this weekend, J.T. Miller had an impressive debut with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The 20-year-old forward had two goals and an assist in the team's 4-3 win over the Albany Devils on Sunday.

It is believed that the Rangers sent him down to the AHL to allow the top prospect more quality minutes, rather than keep him around to play a limited role with the big club.

Rangers assign Miller to Hartford

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
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The Rangers have assigned forward J.T. Miller to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, the team announced via press release Saturday.

Though this move appears to be in anticipation of captain Ryan Callahan's return on Monday, it is a bit surprising for a few reasons. One, they don't need the roster space (especially considering Carl Hagelin's trip to LTIR). Two, Miller had an impressive training camp that essentially forced coach Alain Vigneault's hand to keep him around.

Miller had two shots in 11:58 of ice time in the Rangers' 4-1 season-opening loss to the Coyotes on Thursday.

Rangers drop opener 4-1 to 'Yotes

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
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Radim Vrbata and the Phoenix Coyotes spoiled the beginning of a new era for the Rangers under coach Alain Vigneault, handing the Blueshirts a 4-1 loss in the season opener Thursday night.

Vrbata became the first player ever to score a hat trick against the Rangers on opening night; the 32-year-old veteran notched the go-ahead goal with a wrist shot in the second period and added a pair of goals in the final frame.

Hoping to shake an underwhelming preseason -- the Rangers went 1-5 in exhibition games -- the Rangers dropped the first of what will be a trying nine-game road trip. Granted, they'll have until Monday to regroup, possibly getting back captain Ryan Callahan in the process, but then it's four games in six nights including stops in Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and St. Louis.

Defensive-zone coverage was an area of concern for the Rangers, as was discipline. Though the Coyotes only scored once on the man-advantage, two other goals came soon after penalties expired.

A bright spot of the night? Defenseman Marc Staal continues to impress as he returns from a frightening eye injury that cost him more than half of last season. The 26-year-old scored a power-play marker in the second -- the team's only goal of the game -- while logging a team-high 25:40 of ice time.

And file this in the department of things you don't see very often: winger Rick Nash dropped the gloves late in the game against Martin Hanzal after the Coyotes alternate captain delivered a hard, high hit on Derek Stepan near the benches.

That was Nash's first regular-season fight in over four years.

W2W4: Rangers at Coyotes

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
3:50
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At a glance: The Rangers open their 2013-14 season Thursday night against Phoenix with hopes of shutting the door on a disappointing end to last year and embracing the "clean slate" philosophy of new coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault will be behind the bench for his first regular-season game since replacing John Tortorella this summer. His team struggled in the preseason -- notching only one win in six exhibition games -- and is in dire need of a strong start, considering the nine-game road trip the Rangers must endure to begin the season.

First up: The Rangers face off against a Phoenix Coyotes team that is aiming to get back to the playoffs after missing the cut last spring. They have strong goaltending in Mike Smith and one of the most well-regarded coaches in the game in Dave Tippett, and have added to their roster since last year. The team's biggest off-season acquisition (well, beyond a stable ownership group) was the signing of center Mike Ribeiro, who had a dynamite year with the Capitals in 2013 playing alongside Alex Ovechkin.

Missing in action: As expected, the Rangers will be without two of their top-six forwards -- captain Ryan Callahan and speedy winger Carl Hagelin, both of whom are rehabbing shoulder injuries. Though Callahan is very close to returning, neither player will be in the lineup Thursday. The Rangers need their depth players to step up during their teammates' absences.

Big year for Brad: In desperate need of a bounce-back year, Brad Richards will start the season with a different look. Vigneault has penciled in the veteran center to play left wing on the team's first line with fellow pivot Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Richards has played wing previously in his career, but never as a Ranger.

Step by Step: The recently signed Stepan did not have the luxury of any preseason games to acclimate to the action. The 23-year-old center missed more than a week of camp because of a contract stalemate that finally came to a halt last week. He has not played in an NHL game of any kind since the team's second-round series against the Boston Bruins last spring.

Pressure's on, Hank: Team MVP Henrik Lundqvist vowed to not let his looming contract situation become a distraction, but he's playing for a large payday. The former Vezina Trophy winner, who said Thursday he is removing himself from negotiations during the season, is seeking a significant raise from the $6.875 million he is set to make this year. Should he continue his stellar play from the past two seasons, he can very well expect to become the highest-paid goaltender in the game.

Callahan a 'no-go' for opener

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Though New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said that his surgically repaired left shoulder "felt great" and "responded well" to contact in Sunday's practice, he is not expecting to play in the team's season opener against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

"I think Thursday's a no-go," he told ESPNNewYork.com after Tuesday's practice.

Click here for the full news story.

Rick Nash returns to practice

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
1:29
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers forward Rick Nash returned to the ice Tuesday after missing practice on Sunday with a sore foot. Nash blocked a shot with his foot during the team's last preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings in Las Vegas on Friday.

Nash is skating as right wing on a line with Derek Stepan and veteran Brad Richards. Though Richards is a natural center, he has been moved to left wing for now.

Another interesting development for the day, though it could mean very little:

Captain Ryan Callahan, who was cleared for contact last week, is in a yellow non-contact Tuesday along with Carl Hagelin. Both players are recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean Callahan suffered a setback, but he was in a normal blue contact jersey when the team last practiced on Sunday.

UPDATE: Breathe easy, Rangers fans.

Despite reverting back to the yellow jersey generally reserved for non-contact players, team captain Ryan Callahan said he has not suffered a setback in rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder.

"Full contact. Same as always," Callahan said. "[The jersey is] just for drills."

Though Callahan knew when he saw the sweater in his dressing room stall that it would invite some questions, he explained that it was done so he and fellow injured player Carl Hagelin could practice together without confusion. Coach Alain Vigneault also said that the sartorial change held no special significance.

Callahan said that his shoulder actually "felt great" and "responded well" to contact in Sunday's practice, but that the season opener on Thursday in Phoenix remained unrealistic.

"I think Thursday's a no-go," he told ESPNNewYork.com.

Vigneault said this past weekend that the 28-year-old winger is unlikely to play against the Coyotes. The Rangers' second game of the season is Monday against the Kings in Los Angeles, which has yet to be ruled out as a potential return date by either the team or Callahan.

Callahan cleared for contact

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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Lost in the shuffle of a very newsworthy day in Vancouver on Thursday -- Derek Stepan and the Rangers finally agreed on a two-year deal, ending a worrisome contract stalemate -- was another heartening development for the club.

Captain Ryan Callahan has been cleared for contact.

That's a significant step for the 28-year-old winger, the heart-and-soul leader of the team, toward making his return to the lineup after having shoulder surgery this summer.

Though the Rangers doused any hope he'll be in the lineup on opening night, Oct. 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes, Callahan himself said a few weeks back that he's not ruling it out. Remember also that the Rangers said Marc Staal would not play in the 2012 Winter Classic when he was eyeing a return from a severe concussion; he did.

Regardless, the benchmark is a significant one in that it means the Rangers will not be without one of their most important offensive catalysts for long, a relief considering Carl Hagelin is also rehabbing his shoulder from the exact same surgery and is not expected to play the first few weeks of the season.

Callahan had 16 goals and 31 points for the Rangers last season.

Marc Staal 'back to normal'

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
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Even though the stalemate between the Rangers and unsigned restricted free agent Derek Stepan continues, Ranger fans can breathe a little easier knowing their top blue-liner is fully recovered.

Following a harrowing eye injury that sidelined Marc Staal for half the season, the 26-year-old defenseman is back in action for Team Canada's Olympic camp and feeling well.

"Everything's back to normal and I'm feeling really good," Staal said, according to ESPN.com's Pierre Lebrun.

Read the rest on the Cross Checks blog here.

ESPN.com's Craig Custance also has a good piece on the Rangers' identity under new head coach Alain Vigneault. He checks in with captain Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan here (Insider).

Tortorella: 'It falls on me'

May, 25, 2013
5/25/13
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John Tortorella Michael Ivins/USA TODAY Sports"It's a big part of my job to get your top players to play consistently, and I couldn''t do that," John Tortorella said on Saturday night.
BOSTON -- For as much as John Tortorella’s postgame news conferences have become a bit of a caricature -- often marked by his abrasive, confrontational and sometimes boorish demeanor -- he was sincere in claiming responsibility after his team’s season-ending defeat.

Following the Rangers’ 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 5, Tortorella offered up a lot of reasons the team struggled, both during the game, the series and the entire lockout-shortened season. But he put the onus squarely on himself, too.

One of the Rangers’ most glaring deficiencies was the underwhelming performances by some of the team’s top players. He placed the blame on himself.

"I think one of the big things in this series is I could not -- and it does, it falls on me -- it’s a big part of my job to get your top players to play consistently, and I couldn’t do that," Tortorella said.

The most obvious inability to make that happen came with struggling center Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup under Tortorella in 2004 while with the Tamps Bay Lightning.

Richards’ play deteriorated to such a degree that he was demoted to the fourth line then ultimately scratched for the last two games.

But, he was not alone in failing to step up.

Joining the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner in a disappointing playoff performance was newcomer Rick Nash, who notched only one goal in his first postseason as a New York Ranger.

The premier winger, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Columbus this past summer, was ineffective in both the team’s series against Washington and Boston.

The 28-year-old Nash was limited to just five points in 12 games and he didn’t score his first goal of the 2013 playoffs until Game 3 of Round 2. In Game 5 on Saturday, he didn’t get a shot on goal until the third period. Nash didn't even respond when Boston's Milan Lucic tried to bully him with a brutish few shoves to the chest; he just skated away with no response.

"It’s heartbreaking," Nash said in a brief postgame interview. "We have a good team, good season, and we just couldn’t get the job done."

Though he battled through a lingering wrist issue since midseason, he insisted he wasn’t dealing with an injury.

He clearly was one of those players Tortorella couldn’t get enough from.

"We tried, and so I need to take some responsibility and try to get them in those spots to help us here. I thought that hurt us a little bit," Tortorella said.

Even captain Ryan Callahan wasn’t the same type of tone-setting sparkplug or offensive catalyst his team has come to expect, though he had two goals during the playoffs.

Callahan had one of the best scoring opportunities of the game for the Rangers, but his backhanded breakaway attempt went wide.

"It sucks," Callahan said. "There’s no worse feeling than this. We had a good team this year. It’s frustrating."

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