Rangers need stars to step up

With the series tied 2-2 heading into Saturday's Game 5, the matchup between the top-seeded Rangers and No. 8 Senators hasn't been lopsided as anticipated.

With a pivotal match at Madison Square Garden ahead, the Rangers need their most dangerous offensive threats -- namely Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and captain Ryan Callahan -- to impose their will against a plucky Senators squad that has persisted even while missing captain Daniel Alfredsson the past two games.

The three stars have recorded three points apiece through the first four games, but know more is needed -- and expected -- for the Rangers to advance to the second round.

"Obviously, we need to score more goals," Richards said. "We've got to make big plays."

The Rangers have received clutch contributions elsewhere -- three goals in the first three games from workhorse center Brian Boyle, two power-play goals from defenseman Anton Stralman -- but need to re-establish the formidable top-six forward threat that helped the Rangers secure conference and division titles.

"Your best players have to be at your best at this time of year. You need 'em," Callahan said. "You're going to have other guys step up and score big goals like Boyle has; Stralman has two now. For us to win the series we definitely have to have our top guys going."

Richards and Gaborik combined for a whopping 17 points in the last eight games of the regular seasons, but with top-line catalyst Carl Hagelin still serving a three-game suspension for Saturday's hit on Alfredsson, the tandem has looked less threatening.

Coach John Tortorella tried inserting prospect-turn-pro Chris Kreider as Hagelin's replacement on the left wing during his NHL debut in Game 3 on Monday, but that experiment didn't last long. Kreider has the speed, but Hagelin's tenacious puck-pursuit ability -- such an important dynamic to the line's success -- has yet to be replicated. Richards and Gaborik were separated during Game 4 -- a 3-2 overtime loss in Ottawa -- and practiced Friday on different lines.

Hagelin is eligible to return Game 6, but with a tight first-round series that has hinged on the slightest bounces and breaks, the Rangers can't afford to wait around for his return to spark a magical reunion.

What does Tortorella want to see from his star players on Saturday?

"Our top guys, like everyone wants, to be our top guys."