Saturday Practice In Calgary: Line Changes & Goalie Switch

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

Twitter

The Rangers spent Saturday practicing in Calgary before taking the short flight to Edmonton, where they will skate against the Oilers Sunday night, looking to rebound from their 4-3 loss to the Flames on Friday.

Though head coach Alain Vigneault said after practice that there was a lot to like from the way his team played against the Flames, he did make quite a few significant changes to his forward line combinations at practice, and he did not announce that Cam Talbot will make the start in goal against the Oilers in the Rangers next game.

Talbot has not played since March 13th in Minnesota--a 2-1 defeat--and has made just one start in the Blueshirts' last 15 games. He has started three times since the Olympic break ended February 27th, though Vigneault said that Sunday's game had been targeted as Talbot's next start for some time, especially considering that Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start the final two games of this four-game road trip Tuesday in Vancouver and Thursday in Colorado.

As for the forward lines, Vigneault reunited Marty St. Louis with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, stating that a big reason why was to put St. Louis--who has not scored a goal and recorded just three assists in his first 13 games as a Ranger--back on his more natural right wing after several games on the left side of Derek Stepan and Rick Nash.

"I know Hags and Richie have gotten some good chemistry, so by putting Marty back in there--and I know we've tried that before--we still keep that duo and continuity on the line," explained Vigneault. "I'm hoping that's going to work. Marty expects more from himself, obviously, as far as point production. He's working extremely hard, and when players work as hard as he does they usually find their way; and I am confident he will."

Added Richards, "He's played over 1,000 games (on right wing) and done pretty well there, and he's not going to complain and he's just trying to fit in here, but he's going to be more comfortable over there. I think me and Hags are playing much better hockey than when we first played with Marty, so that'll help. Hopefully me and Hags can help him relax and we'll go out there and have some fun together."

One of the last Rangers off the ice after practice, St. Louis spent quite a bit of time chatting with reporters, breaking down his recent scoring struggles, often in quite philosophical terms.

"It's a little bit of unchartered territory, meaning I haven't experienced that kind of adversity, I haven't gone through something like this before really," explained St. Louis, who is still stuck on 29 goals this season. "It's easier said than done to get out of this, and I'm a hungry guy--I don't like to sit back and say it's going to come back. I am the kind of guy who may try and do too much sometimes. This is the way I am wired."

St. Louis and Vigneault both pointed out that at least the Rangers have by and large been winning games despite Marty's scoring struggles. The head coach also made sure to mention again that much like Sidney Crosby's play for Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics, St. Louis is still contributing in other areas to the Rangers, even when he is held off the scoresheet.

"I know I will come out of this," added St. Louis. "I am getting tested mentally, no doubt. It's a fine line, but once I find it I just have to go with it."

Rugged winger Daniel Carcillo, a scratch in three straight games and four of the last five, took St. Louis' place alongside Stepan and Nash at practice. It appears that he will return to the lineup Sunday, with J.T. Miller a likely scratch after he skated as an extra forward during practice--one that began with a long on-ice conversation with Vigneault.

"I play the same game no matter where I am in the lineup, so it really doesn't matter who I play with," Carcillo said after practice.

Vigneault also reunited Benoit Pouliot with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, while keeping the fourth line of Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett intact.

"Last night they were our best line," the head coach said of his fourth line. "They're playing the right way. They're making high-percentage plays, getting the puck behind the defense, using their size and ability to maneuver down low to generate chances. That's why they've been effective."

Vigneault said that he was "75 percent sure" his practice lines will be the same ones he uses against the Oilers, but will hold off final decisions until Sunday.

********************************************************************************************************************************************

Defenseman John Moore skated again with his teammates on Saturday, and told BlueshirtsUnited.com afterwards that he had "a much better day today" as he recovers from concussion symptoms. He did add that he is taking everything on a day to day basis and not trying to think down the road when he might be able to return to the lineup, but he was very happy with his progress and return to normal on-ice activities.

Moore will sit out his fifth consecutive game Sunday, but Vigneault stated that Moore "needs a couple more practices" and did not rule out a return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canucks.