Wednesday Practice in Raleigh: Talbot To Start, Possible D Change

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Wednesday afternoon the Rangers stepped back out on to the same sheet of ice at the PNC Arena where they had been humbled the night before by the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1, for an up-tempo practice which preceded a late afternoon flight to Minnesota where the team will skate against the Wild on Thursday.

According to head coach Alain Vigneault, the coaches and players revisited what went wrong Tuesday night and then moved on to prepare for an expected tough road battle against the Wild.

"We talked about it as a group today, and obviously nobody is happy with how we played last night," explained Vigneault. "The great thing about this game, and the great thing about this team, is that every time we've had one of those--and we haven't had that many--we have found a way to bounce back with a Grade A effort, and that's what we're going to need tomorrow against Minnesota."

While part of Wednesday's theme was the need to move on and bounce back on Thursday, defenseman Ryan McDonagh felt that it was important the players really learned from what was not the best of efforts in Carolina Tuesday.

"It's disappointing because you want to get points when you can, and they're not a lot of games left and everybody's tight (in the standings)," offered McDonagh. "It's important to let this soak in here and take it to heart and realize that we can't sit back and think it's going to happen easy."

Neither Brad Richards nor Mats Zuccarello practiced Wednesday, both given a maintenance day. Their absence on the ice led to some line juggling among the forwards, for obvious reasons, and also afforded Vigneault the chance to get a better look at defenseman Raphael Diaz at the point on the power play.

Diaz, who has yet to play in a game since being acquired from Vancouver at last week's trade deadline, paired with John Moore during drills and at the points on the second power play unit. Kevin Klein, who has been paired with Moore and who scored his first goal as a Ranger Tuesday, skated on a defense pair with Justin Falk in practice.

"Both (Zuccarello and Richards) play the power play, and with both not out there it gave us an opportunity to see what Raphael can do on the power play, gave him a little bit of work with our regular guys," explained Vigneault. "It gives us a great opportunity to see somebody else and what they can give us. It was my first practice with Raphael--I hadn't been on the ice with him other than the morning skate--so it was good to see him, be on the ice with him in a real practice."

Vigneault was not prepared to say whether or not he is going to make any personnel changes on his blueline for Thursday's game--saying instead that he will discuss things further with his coaching staff tonight before making a final decision tomorrow.

As for Diaz, who began the season in Montreal, and who has been traded twice this season, Vigneault has made sure to do his homework on the right-handed shooting defenseman.

"I had a talk with Michel Therrien, who had (Diaz) for a couple years in Montreal, and he said he's a real dependable defenseman, a guy that won't beat you with size and strength, but who makes a good first pass and has a good shot and knows when to join the attack," shared the head coach. "I expected a guy that'd be a good depth defenseman for us, and it looks like he should be able to do that."

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Cam Talbot will make the start in goal Thursday against Minnesota. With the team playing on back-to-back nights it seemed likely Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist would split the games against the Wild and Winnipeg Jets, and Vigneault confirmed as much Wednesday.

Talbot, who has not started since the 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks coming out of the break on February 27th, is 11-5-0 in 18 appearances (16 starts) so far this season. He owns a terrific 1.75 goals against average and .938 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. Talbot just missed out on his third shutout in that game against the Blackhawks, surrending his only goal in the final seconds of play.

Back on December 22nd Talbot backstopped a 4-1 win over the Wild at Madison Square Garden.

Lundqvist had started the previous six games, and stopped 32 of 35 shots Tuesday night in Carolina.