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Penguins notebook: Tortorella still confident in struggling Rangers

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, whose postgame news conferences have been more contentious as his team has struggled this season, was in a gracious mood following Friday's practice at Consol Energy Center.

The coach seemed to be optimistic that his team was about to turn a corner, even though it lost 24 hours earlier in Winnipeg and was preparing to face a Penguins team that has won seven straight.

“I'm not down on the team,” he said. “The worst thing you can do right now … is to starting panicking and start saying, ‘What's going on with this club?' ”

The Rangers are ninth in the Eastern Conference, a significant surprise given they were considered an elite team when the season started.

“We're the only ones who need to worry about it,” he said. “Not you guys (the media). We need to worry about how we're playing. And that's what we're going to do.”

As long as his team remains psychologically sound, Tortorella believes the Rangers will eventually reach their potential.

“The most important thing is our mindset,” he said. “We can't talk ourselves into a mess.”

• The Penguins will be without center Evgeni Malkin against the Rangers on Saturday. It would also seem unlikely Malkin will play Sunday against the Bruins. Malkin, however, is continuing to see his health improve after sustaining a shoulder injury seven days ago in Toronto. He skated with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice Friday. Malkin has skated multiple times this week with no reported problems.

• This will mark the first time local productJ.T. Miller will play against the team he grew up rooting for. Miller, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2011, has become a regular in his rookie season. The Coraopolis native said he will have 35-40 friends and family members at Consol Energy Center on Saturday. Adapting to New York City has been interesting for Miller, who was born in East Palestine, Ohio. “It's pretty crazy for me,” he said. “My hometown is half the size of Central Park.”

• Former Penguins right wing Arron Asham has not played in a month because of a back injury, and it remains unknown if he will be able to play Saturday against his old team. Asham signed a $2 million, two-year contract with the Rangers last season.

— Josh Yohe

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