The Rangers held an optional practice early Saturday afternoon at the MSG Training Center with 12 players taking part following their exciting 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Hurricanes the night before. Henrik Lundqvist was one of the Blueshirts who did not take to the ice Saturday, but he will be right back between the pipes making his fifth consecutive start on Sunday when the Rangers host the Detroit Red Wings in a 12:30 start at Madison Square Garden.
In fact head coach Alain Vigneault stated that there will not be any changes to the team's lineup Sunday, meaning that Derek Dorsett, Justin Falk, and newcomer Raphael Diaz will all be scratched as they were in Carolina. Dorsett has been in and out of the lineup since returning from a leg fracture after the Olympic break, and was scratched Friday with the return of Mats Zuccarello from injury.
"Dors is a player that's ready to play, and I'm a big fan of Dorsett, but the way (Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, and Daniel Carcillo) have played and our record when that line has played together is really good, so it's really hard to break up our four forward lines," explained Vigneault after practice.
The head coach added that he had a get-to-know-you meeting with Diaz, acquired from Vancouver on Wednesday, earlier on Saturday to discuss the right-handed shooting defenseman's role with the Rangers.
"There's a player that's tryng to establish himself in the NHL," shared Vigneault. "He understands his strength and what he can bring as a puck-moving defenseman who can help the power play. On our team right now he's depth. When he gets a chance to play, and at some point he's probably going to get a chance to play, we'll see how he does."
Diaz was joined on the ice by fellow defensemen John Moore and Justin Falk, goaltender Cam Talbot, and forwards Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Dom Moore, Zuccarello, Boyle, Carcillo, and Dorsett. After the skate Zuccarello--who picked up an assist and logged more than 18 minutes of ice time Friday after missing four games with a fractured hand--said he felt good the day after.
Lundqvist will be seeking his 300th career victory on Sunday--a major milestone. He not only is one win shy of 300 in his career, but he is just two wins away from tying Mike Richter's franchise record for most wins b a goaltender. Most importantly it is another important Eastern Conference battle for the Blueshirts.
"Down the stretch here we're going to have to take advantage of our home games, the fans, the great atmosphere at home," offered Brassard. "I think on the orad there maybe is less pressure, we're more relaxed, just playing. We have to equal that road success on home ice."
Vigneault stated flatly that "there's two huge points up for grabs and everybody needs to be ready."