Rangers focused on the power play

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- In their second-to-last practice before the start of the regular season, the Rangers worked on the power play for the first time.

With good reason -- it could be the key to winning the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers were tied for the second-most points in the NHL last year (109), yet were only tied for 20th in power play goals (44), and 23rd in power play percentage (15.7).

In the playoffs, they converted on just 13 of 73 chances (17.8 percent), and were bounced in the conference finals.

"It really has to change," said center Brad Richards. "As well as we did last year, a little help on that power play throughout the year and in the playoffs probably would have helped us get a little further, if not to the ultimate goal. It’s gotta be a focus for us."

Richards practiced with his teammates for the first time on Thursday, after missing the first three sessions of training camp with the flu. "Obviously needed that for the body," he said, "and now I feel like I’m right back in rhythm and ready to go."

He was joined on the first power-play unit by defenseman Michael Del Zotto and wingers Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash.

"We like what we have out there," Richards said. "It’s got to translate in games. You’re still shooting and playing against your own teammates, so things are a little different -- you’re not gonna tee up one-timers around people’s heads and things like that. It’s gonna take some games, and hopefully we can get a good start Saturday night and get some confidence, bury a couple."

"I thought it was good for the first time working on it," said Nash. "There’s some great players on it -- it’s just a matter of finding some chemistry, and understanding each other’s games."

The addition of Nash should be a plus. "We’ll try him in different spots," said coach John Tortorella. "He’s an elite guy, he can play in a lot of different situations."

"He’s a big body -- he can turn his back and shield guys and get the puck back to the point or kick it down to [Gaborik] in the corner, whatever it’s gonna be," said Richards. "Obviously we all know it’s only gonna help."

Tortorella said the team "practiced very well" on Thursday. "I think they’re itching to play a game," the coach said. "No matter how much time we take off and had off because of the lockout, you can only practice so much before they start getting itchy. Tomorrow we’ll have a tempo practice, and we’ll get out of here and go to Boston."

As for the power play, he said he's not locked into using particular combinations. He wants to see how the games go, and how particular guys are performing.

He also doesn't want to overload the players with too many instructions.

"I think we’re trying to lay down a foundation in our breakout and entries, and then we need to try to allow them to play," Tortorella said. "As I’ve always said, we have our most creative people on the ice in those type of situations. Sometimes you need to get away and let them create."