Rangers doing it the hard way

MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

TORONTO -- The New York Rangers aren't the flashiest team in the NHL, but they are finding success with a combination of grit and attention to detail, or as the cliche goes: A little old-time hockey.

If the season ended right now the Rangers would be in the playoffs, but if history is any indication, making the postseason often comes down to Game 82.

In order to wash away the memories of last year's finish - a 2-1 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers that eliminated New York from the playoffs - the Blueshirts need to continue playing simple, hard-nosed hockey.

Despite all the truculent talk out of Toronto, it's the Rangers providing the example to follow: Leading the league in hits, second in blocked shots and third in fighting majors. The Rangers also have the best giveaway-to-takeaway ratio at plus-74.

Unfortunately statistics can be deceiving, as several teams who excelled in those categories still finished near the bottom of the league a season ago. But it sure doesn't hurt to try.

Such a commitment to team play is a big factor separating the marginally talented Rangers from the teams chasing them.

And it's not only the role players, the core pieces of the offence are leading the charge.

Right winger Marian Gaborik is undoubtedly the most talented player on the team, but he has once again missed time to injury. Instead, the Rangers are garnering most of their offence from rugged right winger Ryan Callahan and centre Brandon Dubinsky.

Dubinsky, 24, looks to have finally developed into a top-line player and is on pace for a career-high 33 goals and 65 points.

Callahan is working on a career year as well, but also leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots (52) and is second overall in hits (117).

Efforts like those are hugely important in the hard-fought NHL and can be the difference between a playoff berth and an early summer.

Getting captain Chris Drury and centre Vaclav Prospal back from their respective long-term injuries in the near future will be a boost as well.

While Drury put together his worst statistical season in 2009-10, he brings valuable leadership and will help in the faceoff circle, an area where the Rangers have struggled.

Prospal should not be overlooked either, as he had good chemistry with Gaborik last year and will solidify New York's top-six.

It's not going to be an easy road, it never is. But if the Rangers continue to play with heart and commitment in coach John Tortorella's system, they won't have to wait until Game 82 to decide their fate.


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