The Rangers are 14-6-1 with Dan Carcillo in the lineup since he was acquired from Los Angeles in early January. In the first game he was scratched as a Ranger the team put forth a dreary performance in losing to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Coincidence? Perhaps yes, perhaps no; but Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault does not seem to want to chance it again, announcing Thursday morning that Carcillo would return to the lineup tonight when the Rangers skate against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
While Carcillo has not put up eye-popping numbers or skated a lot of minutes in his fourth-line duty with the Rangers, he has been extremely effective in an energy role, playing aggressive, smart hockey at both ends of the rink, providing a physical presence in the lineup, and meshing really well with Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle on a fourth line Vigneault can trust.
Carcillo's return to the lineup means that Derek Dorsett will once again be a healthy scratch tonight. Vigneault praised Dorsett's effort from Tuesday night, but added that he felt right now Carcillo is the better fit in the lineup.
"I think Dors played a real good game, but at the end of the day our fourth line and our balance has looked a little bit better with Boyler and Dom Moore and Dan," Vigneault explained prior to his team's morning skate. "It's nothing Dorsett has done wrong. He got hurt, somebody else had an opportunity and seemed to run with it."
Since Carcillo and Dorsett play a similar style and neither can be judged by offensive numbers, Vigneault is forced in a way to make his decision based on what he sees from a chemistry point of view on the ice, relying on his gut as a head coach in making the decision as to which forward to dress each night.
Dorsett will now have been scratched in four of seven games since returning from a fractured leg. He logged less than nine minutes on Tuesday, and is now 3-2-5 with 105 penalty minutes in 40 games this season. Carcillo has scored twice in 21 games as a Ranger, and is 3-1-4 with 96 penalty minutes in 47 games this year with New York and Los Angeles.
While Vigneault stated that there would not be any other changes to the lineup -- he did already announce Wednesday that Cam Talbot would start in goal against Minnesota -- he stated that he could tinker with his forward line combinations, as he did during Tuesday's defeat in Raleigh. Part of his reasoning for considering making some moves centers on trying to get Marty St. Louis in a comfortable fit, and making sure each of the lines has a "net presence"--a player who routinely parks himself in front of the other team's goal.
"I've got a couple ideas here that I'm still mulling over," the head coach offered. "There's a chance there might be some subtle little changes. You've got to do what you feel is best for the team. Any time you bring in a guy like Marty you want to play to his strengths, but the team has to come first. So I'm just trying to sort all of that out."
Vigneault did mention that he was not sure if Carl Hagelin is quite the right fit on a line with St. Louis and Brad Richards, and the popular Swede admitted after the morning skate that he is still feeling his way, trying to build chemistry with the Rangers new star wing. Hagelin has just one goal in his last 12 games, which of course pre-dates St. Louis' arrival in New York.
"I might be thinking too much the last couple games," Hagelin admitted. "It's part of it with a new guy coming in, you try and read off each other, learn the other guy's tendencies, so have to keep working at it."
Though he took a long look at some different defense pairs during practice on Wednesday, Vigneault is not making any changes on the Rangers top six Thursday night.