Practice Notes: Changes Galore, Going Back to MTL

After two straight losses, John Tortorella has decided it’s time to shake up the lineup. Not only did he switch up the lines (after juggling them throughout last night’s contest while unsuccessfully trying to find a spark) but he also changed up defense pairings as well.

These were the lines at preactice today and should be the lines tomorrow night when the Blueshirts visit Montreal:

Lisin-Prospal-Gaborik
Higgins-Dubinsky-Callahan
Avery-Drury-Kotalik
Brashear/Voros-Anisimov-Boyle

Staal-Gilroy
Redden-Girardi
Del Zotto-Roszival

I guess Torts liked what he saw out of Prospal during last night’s game enough to keep him at center. The coach has been raving about Enver Lisin for a few games now so he gets a shot with the top line. The All-American Line with Dubinsky centering Cally and Higgins will probably be under the most pressure as Higgins’ struggles have become big news and the coach has been talking about how Callahan has to get going soon. The thought here is reuniting Dubinsky and Callahan may be just what he needs to break out of a mini slump. Ales Kotalik (who has been more than worth the money so far) finally gets reunited with his old Buffalo center Chris Drury and will get some quality minutes. I still think the best answer would have been leaving Dubi on the first line and giving Artem Anisimov a shot at second line center. Torts seems to be pushing Lisin in an attempt to boost his confidence but I think Anisimov could use the same kind of confidence boost and a promotion could be just what he needs to break out (like Dubi did when he was moved to Jagr’s line two seasons ago). Instead, Anisimov will be playing sparingly on the fourth line (and most likely will be a healthy scratch tomorrow night unless Donald Brashear can’t go with soreness).

On the D, Torts has decided the Staal-Girardi pairing is not working and has split them up after two games in which they struggled. Torts, who is notorious for running players out of town that he has problems with (see Paul Mara), has set his sights on Girardi as of late and may be looking to give him a chance to redeem himself before he gets further into the coach’s doghouse. After criticizing him following camp, he has now called out Girardi over the last week and called his game “very average” following yesterday’s loss to New Jersey. Let’s hope Girardi can bounce back and find his game because I would hate to see him moved. Matt Gilroy has played big minutes but it hasn’t translated to much production offensively so pairing him with Staal could produce a breakout from the talented and aggressive rookie. Michael Del Zotto (who is getting all kinds of buzz in the Calder Trophy race) will remain with partner Michal Roszival.

Other notes from practice:

-Henrik Lundqvist will get the start against Montreal.

-Anisimov stayed on the ice late with Stephen Valiquette so it looks likely that he will be scratched tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is the first game back in Montreal for Christopher Higgins (whose goal less streak now stands at 10 games). It should be an emotional night for the winger as he returns to play the team that drafted him for the first time. “It’s going to be a pretty strange experience,” Higgins said. “I played for them for four years, it was a dream come true to have a career with that organization. To go back in an opposing uniform will be a little surreal. I’ll probably get booed.” Higgins said he still has plenty of friends in an organization he described as his family for four years. Of course, Higgins grew up on Long Island as a Canadiens fan. Beyond that, he said it was a great life experience to live in a foreign-speaking city. He still has a tremendous respect for the people of Montreal. “Just how ingrained the Canadiens were to the culture of the city,” Higgins said. “It seemed the mood of the city dipped and rose with how they were doing”. When he was asked which French words he learned living in Montreal, Higgins said, “All the bad words.”

It is also the first time former Rangers Scott Gomez ( 2 G, 3 A, +1) and Paul Mara ( 5 A, -3, 23 PIM) will face the Blueshirts since their departure this summer.

Newsday’s Arthur Staple has some quotes from Dan Girardi on his recent play, including one that makes it seem like he doesn’t agree with Torts assessment of his play so far. This may be a situation that bears watching. For more click here.

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