When Alain Vigneault made a reference to the "type personnel we have now" following Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, it was fair to assume that there could very well be lineup, and quite possibly roster, changes in store for the Blueshirts. Then on Monday this proved true when Arron Asham was recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack and J.T. Miller was sent back to the minors. It continued on Tuesday when Vigneault said that Asham and Derek Dorsett would be in the lineup tonight against the Nashville Predators.
The simple translation is that the Rangers will be a grittier team, one that should be harder to play against.
"I expect them to bring what they usually bring, a physical dimension to the game," Vigneault said of Asham and Dorsett who have combined for nearly 2,000 career penalty minutes. "If they do that they can be useful to our team."
The reason why the head coach sees the need for both Asham and Dorsett to be in the lineup centers around his frustration over the Rangers inconsistent compete level.
"I'm disappointed in our consistent compete level, it's just not there the way you need it to be in such a competitive league," explained Vigneault. "Putting two players who bring more of a physical bite to our team, maybe that will make some other players compete at a higher level."
Asham totaled 14 penalty minutes when he appeared in three games with the Rangers at the start of the season, and he has accumulated 1,004 penalty minutes over the course of his career. He is a willing fighter, but is more known for his tenacious forechecking skill and grinding style of play.
"I am going to play the same way I've played the last 15 years, finish my checks, chip in offensively here and there, and try to keep the puck out of our net," explained Asham. "It seems to have been working out, so I'm going to be sticking with that. No point changing my game now."
Dorsett, who leads the NHL with 97 penalty minutes this season, returns to the lineup after missing three straight games and five of the last seven due to a sore wrist. Dorsett said he will tape the wrist tonight, and won;t necessarily look for a fight, but weill not back down because of the wrist if challenged.
Like Asham, Dorsett provides a tremendously high compete level, a player who is aggressive on the forecheck, sound defensively, and physical all over the ice.
Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot will be the healthy scratches this evening to make room for Asham and Dorsett. Pyatt has just one assit in 21 games played this season, while Pouliot has three goals and three assists after scoriing in the final minutes Sunday night against Washington. Pouliot now has been scratched in two of the past three games.
Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the Rangers Tuesday, while Nashville will go with its third stringer, Carter Hutton, with Pekka Rinne still injured and Marek Mazanec struggling. Hutton is 4-3-1 in 11 appearances this season with a 3.26 GAA and .894 save percentage.
Tuesday night's game marks the first appearance at Madison Square Garden for 2013 No. 4 overall pick Seth Jones. While it may be the first time he hits the ice at MSG, the building has history for his father, former NBA player and coach Popeye Jones.
"He told me its one of his favorite buildings to play/coach in," Jones told reporters following Nashville's morning skate. "It’s pretty exciting. Obviously there’s a ton of history here. Some of the guys’ first time [being here], as well as mine, so I’m really excited for tonight"
Jones, who has three goals and 10 points through 30 NHL games, said there could be a benefit for Nashville to face the Rangers twice in the last three weeks, but the approach to the contest remains the same.
"I still think we’re looking at it [the same] if we played them two months ago or three months ago or three weeks ago," he said. "Obviously, they’re fresh in our minds, but we’re going to do video and we’re going to be prepared for this game today, and obviously our coaches and players are ready.”
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said he doesn't think there is any benefit to facing New York shortly after their tilt late last month in Nashville.
“I looked at what they did against us," Trotz said. "There’s not a lot of change between the two teams [since the game Nov. 23]. They’re very similar ... It was a close game. It really was. We weren’t able to give our goalies any run support.”