Despite playing back-to-back nights---and winning both games---as well as travelling from Pittsburgh in the early hours, the Rangers practiced at the MSG Training center early Saturday afternoon. 22 of the 23 healthy players were on ice for the uptempo and fun practice, which featured a blueline to blueline three on three mini-scrimmage for the final 15 minutes.
Defenseman Jeff Woywitka, who has been scratched the past three games with Marc Staal back in the lineup, was not on the ice with his teammates, however. Woywitka was given a maintenence day for his sore foot, which has been bothering him since first injuring it December 17th in Phoenix.
Following practice, Rangers head coach John Tortorella addressed several topics of interest:
- Torts explained that the team practiced today instead of Sunday because he wanted the group to have a full day and a half away from the hockey rink before returning Monday morning for practice..."they can now get away from it for a full day and a half...it's a good way to stay fresh, both physically and mentally"
- The coach said he felt Staal played "much better" in Pittsburgh last night than in his first two games since returning from a concussion...he also pointed out that Staal's ice-time will be monitored closely, and that it would no matter whether the team is winning game sor losing them..."I think it's what has to be done...we're going to slowly go about it, and we'll monitor how he comes along and then add, or maybe in some cases even take away, minutes...no matter if we are winning or losing, we are trying to handle that situation in the right way."
- Torts was asked about the preparation tactics of two of his stars, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist, and, first, jokingly said of Richards: "Richie is a mental case...he's different...but he knows how to get himself ready"...as for Lundqvist, Torts joked, "I watch Hank prepare for a game and he wears me out before he even steps on the ice as far as his whole routine getting prepared to play one game".
The Rangers will practice again on Monday morning, and return to game action on Tuesday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.