Despite being down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers returned to practice Sunday positive, upbeat and excited to return to Madison Square Garden Monday night for Game 3.
The Blueshirts received some good news, as injured forward Ryane Clowe skated in a regular practice jersey and has been cleared for contact. He has been out of the lineup since suffering an injury April 25 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I feel pretty good,” Clowe told reporters following the team’s practice Sunday morning. “I think it’s just day-by-day now. I think the first time I skated hard was yesterday. It’s just nice to get back into the routine and get on the ice every day.”
While the change from a non-contact jersey to a contact is a step in the right direction, Clowe did not say whether or not he’d be in the lineup for Game 3 Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a possibility,” he said.
Clowe, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the San Jose Sharks, said it’s been difficult for him to watch the first two games of the playoffs rather than compete and help the team on the ice.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” he said. “As a hockey player who loves to compete, you hate watching games, and playoff games are so intense and physical. I love that.”
Clowe said one of the driving forces behind him accepting a trade to New York was to play a key role in the team’s playoff run. He said while he is anxious to return to the lineup, he doesn’t want to rush it and risk further injury.
“When I come back, whenever that is, I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’ll play my style that I think will be effective this time of year.”
Forward Carl Hagelin was given a maintenance day and did not skate. Hagelin scored the Rangers only goal this series in the first period of Game 1. In Game 2, he finished with 16:14 of ice time, more than a minute less than in Game 1 despite Game 2 going to overtime.
While the Rangers would have preferred to come back to Madison Square Garden with at least a split in Washington, head coach John Tortorella said he is not worried about his players and their mindset.
“That is the furthest thing of a worry for me,” Tortorella said after practice. “This is a good group of guys. Last time I remember, you need four games to win a series. Our guys are fully aware of that. I don’t even think about that after a situation like last night.”
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan echoed Tortorella’s sentiments.
“We just have to take care of business at home,” Callahan said. “We would have liked to take one there, but obviously that didn’t happen. These two games at home are obviously that much more important. We have to feed off the energy of the crowd, the excitement in the building. I think there will be no problem with how loud it’ll be in there.”