Staal Doesn't Practice on Thursday

The Rangers held an optional morning practice on Thursday before the team flies out to D.C. for Game 5 on Friday night, after the Blueshirts tied the series, 2-2, with a 4-3 win last night in Game 4.

Among those taking part in the skate were Rick Nash and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, despite the latter two logging 31:29 and 29:35 of ice time, respectively, in Game 4.

Not among the skaters, though, were Marc Staal and Darroll Powe. Staal returned to the lineup in Game 3 on Monday night, but did not play in Game 4 last night. Powe, meanwhile, left Game 3 in the first period after an apparent elbow to the head. Neither spoke after practice and no update was given on their conditions.

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The Rangers are hopeful the success they found at home, especially offensively — eight goals in two games at MSG after just one goal in two games at Verizon Center — will carry over into Game 5.

“We found our forecheck in Game 3 and 4, especially last night. We have to carry that over into tomorrow and that’s going to be huge for us,” defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. “Any time you score a couple goals that’s obviously a confidence boost. It was good for us to get one on the power play. Special teams obviously has been a huge factor all series. We just have to keep going. If we keep playing the way we were, we feel we can be successful.”

Carl Hagelin, who scored his second goal of the series last night, said the team has been more aggressive since Game 2.

“We’re on them more and definitely held onto more pucks,” he said. “That’s why we’ve created more chances.”

He said the team must not stray away from the way they’ve played in the two games at home once the series shifts back to the road.

“I hope we’ve gained some confidence from these two games,” Hagelin said. “When we go into Washington tomorrow, we want to play the same way we did last night.”

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Rick Nash has been held to just one assist through four games in the series, and said he must make adjustments to open up more space for himself in the Washington zone.

“They’re strengthening the zone, so to beat that I have to use the weak-side D, the short-side D and just figure it out that way,” Nash said after practice. “I’m getting a chance here and there, but it’s just a matter of keep working for space. If they’re going to strengthen the zone even more then I’ve got to work even harder to look for opportunities.”

Derek Stepan, though, doesn’t believe there is anything worry about with Nash’s game.

“Rick will get going,” he said. “I don’t think he’s been not going. He’s had scoring chances and he hit the pipe I think in Game 2. When you’re Rick Nash, every time you touch the puck you have five guys watching you, so it makes it tough for you … He’ll find the back of the net. There’s no question about that.”

Stepan, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 off a pass from Nash, believes once one goal goes in for Nash, more will come.

“You’ve just got to find a way to maybe get that fluky one or something to kind of get the ball rolling,” he said. “He’s got a target on his back because of the way he plays. He’s so dynamic with the puck.”

Do you expect the same play from the Rangers as the series shifts to D.C. for Game 5? Tell us in the comments below.