Rangers coach John Tortorella has been loathe to single players out this postseason, whether it's the verbal equivalent of a pat on the back or a kick to the shins.
But, asked whether 23-year-old Artem Anisimov has raised his game during the playoffs, Tortorella relented.
"He has. I mean he makes a hell of a pass there to [Chris] Kreider," Tortorella said of Anisimov's beautiful cross-ice feed to set up the rookie's insurance goal in the team's 3-0 win against the Devils on Monday. "That's why he has been moved up. He's done some good things away from the puck. A lot of people don't realize some of the things he does. He's improved."
Not enough, according to Anosimov, who spent time earlier this postseason on the team's fourth line.
When asked if he's pretty satisfied with the the way he's been playing lately -- including the two-point performance against the Devils in Game 1 -- Anisimov responded bluntly: "No. Have to be better."
In what way?
"Every way. I need to bring my level up," he told ESPNNewYork.com.
Anisimov said he has been making an effort to better his play away from the puck, an improvement that earned him a promotion to play with Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko -- essentially a checking line for the Rangers that can also add offense.
"I tried to do a better job. It's the playoffs. I need to get better each game." he said after the team's morning skate on Wednesday. "One mistake and it costs us the game, you know? One big play can win the game, too. You have to be ready for that."
Anisimov's first goal of the series was an empty-netter -- scored with Devils Martin Brodeur pulled for the extra attacker with 1:27 left in regulation -- but he knows that will likely be the only easy one he gets during what is expected to be a gritty battle between two division rivals in this Eastern Conference finals series.
"All the goals being scored are coming off rebounds or deflections in front," he said. "It's hard to beat a goalie one-on-one right now."