The full Rangers team had not been on the ice together since last Tuesday's 3-0 Garden victory over the Winnipeg Jets. But Monday afternoon, following five full days off for the NHL All Star break, there they were, the Blueshirts back on the ice practicing at the MSG Training Center.
"It was great to see all the guys here early, hungry to get back to work," said Brandon Dubinsky, who spent his break back in his native Alaska. "We've got a big finish ahead of us and everyone is up for the challenge."
All Star Game MVP Marian Gaborik and fellow All Star Dan Girardi were at the training facility, but opted not to skate on Monday---with head coach John Tortorella's approval. Fellow All Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin did take part in the up-tempo practice, however.
"They practiced really well and were full of energy," Tortorella said of his team Monday. "I wanted to stop the practice after 20 minutes and bottle it because I thought they were that good."
Defenseman Steve Eminger, who is working his way back from a separated shoulder, once again took part in all contact drills during practice, afterwards declaring himself about 85% healed from the injury. Eminger would not say when he is hoping to return to the lineup, but did say that he is getting closer to that return,
Rejoining the team at practice was center Erik Christensen, who had played five games with the Connecticut Whale on a conditioning stint before returning to the Blueshirts.
"My two weeks (conditioning stint) ended right before the All Star break so I actually was one who didn't want the break, I wanted to keep playing and practicing, not shut it down," explained Christensen. "But it's great to be back, and now I just have to make sure that I am ready to contribute if they need me. I watched all of (the Rangers) games while I was away and the team is playing great."
One Ranger who did not take part in practice was injured defenseman Michael Sauer. All that Tortorella would say about his condition was that "he didn't skate today".
The Rangers return to game action Tuesday night when they skate against the Devils at The Prudential Center. They follow that contest up Wednesday night with a tilt in Buffalo against the Sabres.
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