Roster Freeze And Islanders Both Looming In Immediate Future

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Following Wednesday's exhausting two-goal comeback and eventual 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers held an optional practice attended by 12 players at the MSG Training Center on Thursday afternoon. In the middle of a stretch of four games in six nights, half of the players, including goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, decided to rest instead of take to the ice on Thursday.

As for Lundqvist, who was barreled over by Penguins forward Chris Kunitz 14 seconds into overtime on Wednesday and said that he had a sore neck after the game, head coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday that as far as he was aware the Rangers No. 1 goalie was feeling good the day after.

"I didn't check with him, but since I didn't hear anything I'm assuming everything is OK," Vigneault said of Lundqvist. "If he's good to go (Friday night against the Islanders), he's going to play."

Should Lundqvist start against the Isles, that would be his season-high eighth consecutive start between the pipes. However with such a busy schedule heading into the NHL Holiday Break next week, Vigneault said that back up goalie Cam Talbot will likely get a start, either Sunday against the Minnesota Wild or Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"There's a good possibility that Cam is going to play one of those games," explained the head coach. "I'm just not quite sure which one just yet."

Talbot's most recent start was on December 2nd against Winnipeg, though he did play more than two periods in relief of Lundqvist last Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Vigneault would not elaborate on the rest of his lineup for Friday's battle with the Islanders, and added that the coaches and team management were going to meet Thursday afternoon to decide what--if any--additions or subtractions would be made to the current roster before the midnight holiday roster freeze goes into effect. The head coach did say that Dylan McIlrath's immediate future will be discussed and decided, though he did not mention any other players either on the current Rangers roster or on the Hartford Wolf Pack roster.

The Rangers will be facing an Islanders team that is 1-9-4 over its last 14 games and has sunk to the bottom of the Meteropolitan Division standings, making them a hungry desperate team. However the Rangers, just 1-3-2 through the first six games of this nine-game homestand, are just as deperate for two points, setting up a juicy contest between two rivals that do not like one another anyway.

"It's always a big game when we play (the Islanders), but even more so now the way both teams are going," stated center Brian Boyle. "We need two points, that's it, and they are a dangerous team. They have several lines that can hurt you, and not just that top line (centered by John Tavares). It's going to be a big game, for sure."

Added winger Carl Hagelin, who has scored goals in back-to-back games, "We have to win at home if we are going to be a playoff team. The expectations heading into this homestand were that we'd win a lot of games, and we still have a chance to get some here. It's going to be two desperate teams (Friday). We need to make sure we get the two points."

The Islanders will be paying their first visit of the season to The Garden on Friday, and the two rivals will be meeting for the second time this season overall. Back on October 29th the Rangers skated to a 3-2 victory with Talbot in goal at the Nassau Coliseum.

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A Rangers spokesperson was asked if there was any update on the condition of defenseman Marc Staal, who has missed five straight games due to a concussion, and he replied that there was not anything new to report.