Vigneault: Giroux Comment "Totally Expected...Competitive Nature"

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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In the minutes following the Rangers 4-1 win over the Flyers in Game Three Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux fairly guaranteed that the series would return to Madison Square Garden over the weekend tied 2-2 because the Flyers were going to rebound and win Game Four on home ice Friday night.

When asked about Giroux's comments during a Wednesday conference call with reporters on a day off for his team, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault seemed non-plussed.

"I think what Giroux said there is totally expected," replied Vigneault, whose team regained home ice advantage with Tuesday's win and now leads this best-of-seven two games to one. "I think they expect to go into the next game and win, and I'm sure our guys expect to go into the next game and win. That's part of competitive nature. I can't foresee any one of our players stepping onto the ice at any time and not thinking they can win."

Vigneault, as he often has stated during this series already, reiterated that each game is different from any other--that what happened in one game does not really affect the outcome of any which follow it. To that end he knows that his team needs to be prepared for another difficult contest Friday night down in Philadelphia.

"Come Friday it's another game, we're going to get ready for it and we'll have a plan," explained Vigneault. "We're going to see another goaltender, and we'll have a plan for that. We're going to work real hard to try and win that game. I can tell you that I am 100 percent sure Philly is going to try and do the same thing."

In alluding to "another goaltender", Vigneault was referring to the Flyers No. 1 netminder Steve Mason, who--after being unable to start the first three games due to an unspecified injury--is expected to make his first start between the pipes in this series Friday night in Game Four.

Mason dressed as Ray Emery's backup Tuesday for the first time in this series, and then played the final 7 minutes 15 seconds when Emery was removed from the game. Mason faced only three shots, but after practicing on Wednesday, he declared himself ready to go on Friday. Flyers head coach Craig Berube has not made anything official just yet.

Emery is 1-2-0 with a 3.49 goals against average and .888 save percentage in this first-round series; while Mason tied a career high with 33 wins and 61 appearances during the regular season for the Flyers, establishing himself as the clear-cut No. 1 in Philly.

"I think we have a good team, and there's no doubt in my mind there, but we're also playing against a real good team," offered Vigneault on Wednesday. "There's so little separating both teams, so that makes for great hockey."

Vigneault's squad will practice on Thursday at Madison Square Garden following Wednesday's day off, and then will travel down to Philadelphia for Friday's Game Four. 

When asked specifically if injured forward Chris Kreider would be practicing with the team on Thursday, Vigneault answered "No."

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At the start of the conference call Vigneault was asked if he considered benching winger Benoit Pouliot during Game Three after he twice negated Ranger power plays by taking penalties in the offensive zone. Vigneault explained why he chose not to sit Pouliot, who has a goal and an assist through three games in this series.

"Every situation is different," explained the Rangers head coach. "Last night we were in a tough building, a tough environment, and you have to trust your players. They're always walking that fine line of what's acceptable and not acceptable. I know Benny's intentions were good. He felt that the player (Andrew) MacDonald had taken a dive on both of those occasions, and he felt that he didn't get a fair shake. Sometimes you have to let your players work their way through it; and in the instance like last night I felt that he could work his way through it."

Vigneault concluded, "It was still real early in the game, there's still a lot of hockey to be played, and I felt the way that Ben had been playing for us for a long stretch of time that he deserved an opportunity to redeem himself and keep playing."

Pouliot finished Game Three with one shot on goal, three hits, and was a +1 in more than 13 minutes worth of ice time.