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The Rangers are currently ranked second-to-last for faceoffs in the NHL.
Ahead of only the Devils, the Blueshirts have won a mere 41.8 percent from the dot through the first 10 games of the season. It’s been an area the Rangers have made a point to focus on in practice lately.
“Certainly not good enough,” coach David Quinn said Sunday following practice. “There’s so many things that go into it. One of the things that can happen during the faceoffs stats is that the team that touches it first gets the win regardless of what direction it goes, so our flanks have to do a better job in helping our centers. But that being said, our centers have to bear down more and, I mean, a faceoff is a battle. It’s an absolute battle and we’ve just got to be better on the dots, we’ve got to understand if we’re not having a great night just not lose it.
“The approach is huge when you’re trying to win a faceoff or just not lose it and it really is a team effort. It is something we worked on [Sunday].”
The Rangers have steadily improved on faceoffs as the season has progressed, winning 26 of 57 (45.6 percent) against the Capitals on Thursday, but it’s been their lack of aggression in the circles that has proven to be a weakness. In Thursday’s win for example, Alexander Ovechkin converted a snipe to make it a 3-2 game in the third period off of a faceoff win.
“It’s definitely something that we talk about every day, especially the centers, trying to find ways to improve on the faceoff dot,” Kevin Rooney said. “Obviously we haven’t gotten off to the start we wanted in the circle, so we’re doing some extra work after practice, we’re watching video. And then also we’re talking to our wingers, but we’re really trying to get in there and win more of those 50-50s instead of having them come up with it.”
Brendan Smith skated with the team Sunday for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury in the first period of the 3-1 win over the Penguins on Feb. 1.
He wore a green, non-contact jersey but was able to participate in a majority of drills.
Quinn said earlier that Smith was still considered day-to-day and that he didn’t expect the 31-year-old defenseman to be available for Monday’s matchup with the Islanders.
Following a series of changes to the Rangers’ schedule due to the coronavirus outbreaks in the league, the team is currently in the middle of an eight-game homestand, which began Jan. 30 and is scheduled to conclude Feb. 16.
The eight-game stretch at Madison Square Garden would be the second-longest in franchise history. The record is nine, which went from Dec. 7-23 in 2013.