Stralman improving, scores first goal

Since inking a one-year, Band-Aid deal to help the injury-ravaged Rangers in November, defenseman Anton Stralman didn't seamlessly transition in the team's lineup.

Stralman, who failed to make the Devils roster as a training camp tryout, sat out stretches and struggled to earn ice time to start. He showed difficulty in adapting to John Tortorella's system and suffered bouts of inconsistency, none of which endeared him to the demanding coach.

But the 25-year-old Swede has improved of late and tallied his first goal of the season Thursday night to tie the game in the first period. With the Rangers trailing 1-0, Stralman tied the game with his shot (one he described as a "chocolate-chip muffin") that deflected in off Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski.

"To break the zero on the scoresheet is always nice," Stralman said. 'As long as we win, that's all that matters, but it's always nice to be on the scoresheet."

Tortorella said that Stralman drives him crazy at time but that he has made meaningful strides, especially given the team's bleak injury situation

"He's been a pretty important guy as far as being thrust into that top-four [role]," Tortorella said. "He's still trying to figure us out, we're still trying to figure him out, but slowly and surely, he's getting more consistent with his game."