The Rangers held an optional morning skate at the Verizon Center Thursday in their final preparations for Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Washington Capitals. Though head coach John Tortorella would not reveal his lineup when meeting with reporters Thursday morning, by the looks of who stayed on the ice late after the morning skate, it would seem no lineup changes will take place for the Rangers in Game One.
Injured defenseman Marc Staal, who said Wednesday that he"probably" would not play Thursday, remained on the ice a half hour longer than the players who will be taking part in tonight's game. So it seems clear that Staal will not be in the lineup for Game One, which is still a bitter pill for him to swallow considering the importance of each game now.
"It's tough watching regular season games, so now the fun begins---the playoffs are the best time of year---and it's going to be tough sitting," said Staal in the visitors dressing room on Thursday. "They guys have been great down the stretch. They have made it easier to watch because we have been successful and we have been winning games. And hopefully we can do that tonight."
While Staal inches closer to a return---he has been sidelined since March 5th with an eye injury---so does Brian Boyle. The hulking center sat out the last six games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, but on Thursday he took part in the optional morning skate---"He looked good, he was flying around out there", according to Staal---the first time he has skated with his teammates since being injured on April 16th against the Flyers.
"It's the playoffs, I want to get out there as quick as I can," stated Boyle. "It felt good, so that's all I really know. I'm trying to feel as good as I can as fast as I can."
Ryane Clowe also remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. Clowe worked out off-ice Thursday morning, but has not returned to the ice as of yet. With both Boyle and Clowe missing from the lineup Kris Newbury will again dress and play on the fourth line with Arron Asham and Darrol Powe, while Chris Kreider dresses and plays on the third line with Derick Brassard and Taylor Pyatt.
"For me it goes back to college where the coaches would tell us regardless of how your year went (the post-season and playoffs) is an entirely new season," explained Kreider, who scored two goals in 23 NHL games in 2013 after netting five in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "These are the games that really matter."
Washington will get rugged winger Joel Ward back into the lineup on Thursday, and he will likely skate alongside Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.
Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby will be the goaltenders, with the puck dropped on Game One at 7:35 PM.