As the Rangers took to the ice for Tuesday's morning skate at Madison Square Garden the forwards were wearing their usual blue practice jerseys while the defensemen were in their red tops, except for Jeff Woywitka, who was wearing an orange "non-contact" sweater as he works his way back from a sore foot.
While none of that was surprising, there was a big surprise in store for those watching the skate. Injured defensemen Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger both were on the ice, skating with their teammates for the time since being hurt. Wearing the same orange jerseys as Woywitka, both Sauer and Eminger took part in all aspects of the morning skate, which was, as usual, devoid of any hitting or contact drills.
To have one of these important players back on the ice would have been good news for the Rangers, but to have both back on the same day made for a really good morning at The Garden.
"I hadn't picked up a stick and played with the boys for a while," said a smiling Sauer after the skate. "When you are healthy that is something you can take for granted, but getting out there again, snapping the puck around, scoring a few goals, making good passes, it's just fun. Hockey is just an amazing game, and it's certainly better than being on the bike! I am just happy that I've been able to progress back on to the ice."
Sauer has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on December 5th after taking a hard hit from Toronto's Dion Phaneuf. He explained that he has had a few stops and starts in his recovery, but has felt much better the last week-to-ten-days.
He also pointed out that---despite the headaches, nausea, bed spins and blurred vision he has suffered from since---Sauer holds no ill feelings towards Phaneuf.
"It's part of the game and i understand that, it was just a hit, that's all," said Sauer, who has missed 19 games so far due to the concussion. "(Phaneuf) is a good player, and it was what it was."
Sauer explained that he has received much support from his brother Kurt, the Phoenix Coyote who has been sidelined all season because of a concussion. He also pointed out that his return will be monitored by the team's training staff on a day-to-day basis depending upon how his head and body react to increased activity.
As for Eminger, who separated his shoulder in Phoenix on December 17th, he reported that he is completely on schedule with his progress and recovery. He has been working out in the gym for more than two weeks to strengthen the shoulder, while also keeping his cardio up.
Like Sauer, Eminger skated for the first time since being hurt yesterday at the MSG Training Center as a test before receiving the OK to skate with his teammates today.
"I want to get back into the lineup, but in this situation I want to be 100% with my hitting, battling, taking checks, so I am willing to wait as long as possible to make sure I am ready to play my game," said Eminger, who has missed the last 13 games. "I don't want to be 90% ready and be shying away from hits because then I feel useless to the team."
Though he admitted feeling "frustrated" being out of the lineup, Eminger also stated that he was buoyed by the fact his legs and conditioning feel so good after not skating for a month.
Share your thoughts below on Sauer and Eminger's dual return to the ice today.