Torts: Balance a 'concern'

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- No one will refute that the Rangers' front-loaded first line, when firing on all cylinders, is one of the best in the league.

So far Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash have combined for 19 points.

But when that trio is off -- like in the team’s 2-1 loss in Philadelphia last Thursday -- the Rangers are in trouble.

"It’s a concern," coach John Tortorella admitted, "the balance."

Despite the firepower up front, the Rangers have dropped three of the first five games of the season. One of the biggest reasons has been the lack of secondary scoring.

Beyond newcomer Taylor Pyatt, who earned a promotion to the team’s second line with three goals in five games, the Rangers have struggled to find scoring elsewhere in their lineup.

Captain Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle have a mere one point each. Chris Kreider (now out with a minor ankle injury) and Carl Hagelin have been held off the score sheet entirely.

"There’s a number of other people that need to get more consistently in all phases of the game," Tortorella said. "Some did the last game but we still need more throughout our lineup to create a balance."

Even after a dismal performance in Philadelphia last week, Tortorella opted to keep the power line together, a move that paid dividends in the team’s win against the Leafs Saturday.

But Tortorella has wrestled with whether to split the first line up to try to spark another line.

Does he fear jeopardizing the entire team’s production if he makes a change?

"I don’t know. It’s such a strange year with a lot of teams, a lot of players struggling because of the lack of camp. Let’s face it, that’s the reason," he said.

"It’d be nice to keep that line together but other guys have to get it going. We can’t just rely on that line. That’s where I have to be really careful."

Tortorella said the decision will be made "game to game," taking several factors into account. But don’t be surprised to see some unusual line combinations in the future -- recent call-up Benn Ferriero was centering the second line by the second period Saturday -- as the fiery coach finds little comfort in the routine.

"You guys beat the hell out of me about my line-changing. I’ve done that my whole career. It’s just taken on a life of its own," he said. "It’s going to continue here."