Wednesday Morning Skate: Asham Back In, McIlrath To Sit Out

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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After dressing seven defensemen and 11 forwards in a bit of an unconventional lineup Sunday night against Calgary, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to go with a more typical lineup when the Blueshirts host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers will dress six defensemen and 12 forwards against the Penguins, with Justin Falk  getting the nod over rookie Dylan McIlrath on defense, and Arron Asham reinserted into the lineup up front after being a healthy scratch on Sunday. It is the first time McIlrath is being scratched, in three games, since being called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack a week ago. 

McIlrath logged 8:55 in his NHL debut last Thursday against Columbus, and played only 5:08 against the Flames, though he also engaged in his first NHL fight---with Calgary's tough Brian McGrattan---and rang up seven penalty minutes on the night. With the holiday roster freeze shortly in effect across the National Hockey League, Vigneault said that the team will decide after the game against Pittsburgh if any final roster moves will be made, though he was not specifically speaking about McIlrath.

"I thought he did a real good job of holding his own in that fight," Vigneault said of McIlrath following Sunday's game. "I am not sure a fight, one way or the other, has that impact, but I do think it brings a little bit of emotion to the game. So it certainly did help."

Falk, who logged 9:35 against the Flames, has played in four of thre last five games, and eight of ten. In 14 games this season he has on assist, 18 penalty minutes, and a minus-four plus/minus rating.

Asham got the nod up front ahead of Taylor Pyatt, who will be a healthy scratch for the third time in the last four games tonight. Vigneault admitted after the morning skate that right now Pyatt is on the outside looking in at a spot in the lineup with the Rangers.

"Right now he's on the outside," the head coach said of Pyatt, a 13-year NHL veteran. "After training camp he was given a lot of opportunities...and never really got his game going after training camp. Right now he's on the outside looking in, and I'm not quite sure where all that's going to go."

In 22 games this season Pyatt has one assist, 10 penalty minutes and a minus-nine plus/minus mark.

Henrik Lundqvist will make his season-high seventh consecutive start in goal tonight for the Blueshirts. Lifetime against Pittsburgh Lundqvist is 24-18-6 in 48 apearances with two shutouts, a 2.39 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. He made 28 saves in the Rangers 5-1 win over the Penguins back on November 6th at The Garden

What do you think of the Rangers lineup for Wednesday's game against the Penguins? Share your thoughts in the comments section.