There was an extra spring in John Moore's step during practice Friday at the Staples Center, perhaps more of a glint in his eye afterwards, too, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he won't have to take part in Daniel Lacroix's brutal bag-skate sessions any more. No, it had much more to do with the fact that John Moore likely will return to the lineup Saturday and play in the first Stanley Cup Final game of his three-year NHL career.
Suspended by the National Hockey League for two games after his hit on Montreal's Dale Weise in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final on May 27th, Moore has now completely served the penalty after sitting out the victorious finale of the conference final and the 3-2 overtime loss in the Cup final opener Wednesday.
"It obviously stinks watching," stated Moore after Friday's practice. "I don't know what the plan is going forward, but I hope to be back in there tomorrow. It's tough to watch. The Stanley Cup Final, it dosn't get any better than that, so to not be out there is a tough pill to swallow."
Head coach Alain Vigneault would not discuss his lineup for Game Two, but he pretty much declared that Moore would return to his normal spot in the lineup when he told reporters "you saw what practice looked like." During Friday's on-ice skate, Moore paired as usual with defense partner Kevin Klein, while Raphael Diaz--who played on 10:15 Wednesday night--was again among the extras.
"As far as him being ready, I know if we need him he will be because he works extremely hard and he's only missed two games," Vigneault said of the 23 year-old defenseman. "Now how he's going to respond after being suspended, that question goes to him, but I think he will be fine."
When asked if thre suspension would change his game at all moving forward Moore was confident it would not.
"All that other stuff, it happened, and I certainly don't see that affecting the way I play," answered Moore, who has one assist and is a +4 in 17 games played this spring. "It's unfortunate what happened, but it's hockey first and foremost and I've been playing it my whole life, and I don't see what happened changing my style."
Moore has 29 games of NHL playoff experience under his belt, but Saturday will be his first appearance in a Cup final contest. Not only that, it will come in a hugely important game for the Rangers who trail the best-of-seven 1-0 and desperately want to even the series before heading back home to host Games Three and Four next week.
"I think at this time of the year, when you are playing for the Cup, it all comes from inside now," explained Moore. "It's really just a battle of wills."
For the first time in more than a week Friday, Moore was able to avoid assistant coach Lacroix's brutal post-practice bag-skate. He smiled when asked about it and assured all that he has no interest in taking part in one of those any time again in the near future.