Saturday Pre-Game In Newark: Injury and Illness Lead To Changes

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Coming off one of their biggest victories of the season--rallying for a 3-1 road win in Columbus Friday night--the Rangers face the difficult challenge of facing a Devils team that would love nothing more than to derail the Blueshirts march to the playoffs Saturday night in Newark. Making things even more difficult for the Rangers is that they will be forced to make at least two--and possibly more--lineup changes due to injury and illness.

Defenseman John Moore will be scratched because he is suffering from "concussion symptoms", as head coach Alain Vigneault stated prior to the game. In addition Derek Dorsett will sit out due to a case of a stomach flu, and two other unnamed players are questionable due to unspecified ailments. Those two players will take part in pre-game warmups, but may not be able to play.

Moore will be replaced by Raphael Diaz, who will make his Rangers debut; while Daniel Carcillo returns to the lineup to take Dorsett's place, one night after Dorsett was inserted onto the fourth line in Columbus, taking Carcillo's spot .

"(Diaz) has been playing in the league a couple years," stated Vigneault. "He's a safe, effective defenseman that can make a safe first pass and that could out on the power play. He's going to play the left side, a side he's never played before; and we need to find out if he can play that position. He'll replace Johnny today and we'll see how he does."

The 28 year-old Diaz, who was acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline but has been a healthy scratch ever since, will pair alongside Kevin Klein Saturday night at even strength and will also see time on the second power play unit. In 52 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks this season, Diaz had one goal, 12 assists, 13 points, and 12 penalty minutes. 

In his third NHL season, Diaz has appeared in 134 games in his career. He will become the tenth player to make his Rangers debut this season joining Benoit Pouliot, Jesper Fast, Justin Falk, Cam Talbot, Dylan McIlrath, Conor Allen, Daniel Carcillo, Kevin Klein, and Marty St. Louis.

Should the Rangers be forced to replace any other players in the lineup following warmups, they have one defenseman--Falk--and one forward--Ryan Haggerty--at their disposal. Falk has appeared in 20 games this season with the Rangers, though none since December 29th; while Haggerty just signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of RPI where he had a standout junior season, but has yet to appear in a National Hockey League game.

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Vigneault was asked pre-game if he considered starting Talbot in goal with the Rangers playing the second game of a back-to-back and facing a three-games-in-four-nights stretch. The head coach made it sound like he never considered not starting Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday.

"Hank's the guy, and points are hard to come by, and yes Cam has played really well for us, but Hank's our guy and if we're going to get in (to the playoffs) it's because Hank plays like Hank," explained Vigneault. 

Lundqvist was superb Friday night in Columbus, stopping 25 of 26 shots, one game after becoming the Rangers all-time leader in victories following Tuesday's win in Ottawa.

As for an emotional letdown Saturday, following the intense 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets, Vigneault said, "I can't see it. We're in a fight here that we need to win. These are all almost Game Sevens right now, and we're in playoff hockey mode, and have been for a long time."