Monday's Morning Skate: Stepan & St. Louis Ill, May Not Play

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Talk about terrible timing.

With the Rangers in the midst of their final big push to secure a spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the flu is starting to run through the team, providing yet another major challenge for a Blueshirts team that enters play Monday night against the Phoenix Coyotes with three straight wins, and victories in four of its last five games.

Saturday night in New Jersey Derek Dorsett was knocked out of the lineup due to the flu, and Monday morning neither Derek Stepan nor Marty St. Louis participated in the team's full morning skate as they both had fallen ill, as well. A decision on whether or not Stepan and/or St. Louis can play tonight will be made later in the day, closer to game time. The same holds true for Dorsett, who was able to skate Monday morning, but who is still weakened by a virus.

The Rangers are already without defenseman John Moore, who is suffering from "concussion symptoms" stemming from a hit Friday night in Columbus. Moore did not play against the Devils Saturday, and will be replaced once again by Raphael Diaz in the lineup tonight--though head coach Alain Vigneault did say that Moore "felt much better today" and even was able to ride the stationary bike.

"You are missing guys from your lineup all the time throughout the season, it's just up to other guys to step in and step up," offered defenseman Kevin Klein after the skate Monday. "It's like on Saturday, Raffy came in and played an excellent game (in Moore's place). That's what we need tonight, for guys to step up because these are two big points."

Vigneault said that J.T. Miller likely will be recalled on an emergency basis from Hartford depending on the availability of Stepan, St. Louis and Dorsett. Rookie Ryan Haggerty--who has yet to appear in an NHL game--and defenseman Justin Falk--who has not played since December 29th--are currently the Rangers two extra players.

Miller has played in only 35 games for the Wolf Pack this season yet is second on the team with 37 points (12-25-37). He is also a +13 and has scored two power play goals and one shorthanded goal in the AHL this season.

St. Louis and Stepan are the Rangers two leading scorers this season. St. Louis has 64 points in 72 games--though most of that was accrued as a member of the Lightning as he has just three assists in ten games wearing the Blueshirt; while the red-hot Stepan has 50 points on the season. Since the Olympics Stepan has notched 15 points in 13 games, and has recorded at least one point in 11 of 13 games. He had a goal and an assist Saturday in Newark, and is riding a three-game goal-scoring streak.

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The Rangers will hold a pre-game ceremony to salute Henrik Lundqvist's two career milestones achieved this past week--becoming the franchise's all-time leader in victories and shutouts; and even though Lundqvist will be the starting goalie against the Coyotes, he will take part in the on-ice ceremony. Lundqvist's parents will be in attendance as will his sister, wife, and daughter.

"It's a big thing, and it's something that's well-deserved," Vigneault stated Monday morning. "I think Hank's looking forward to it; but at the end of the day this is a thing we're going to get through and then focus on the win. We need wins and points. I think everybody is real happy for Hank, but I think he'd prefer us winning tonight than anything else."

Lundqvist, who was also named as the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday, received congratulations from his good friend and former goaltending partner, Martin Biron, in the team's dressing room following the morning skate.