Staal Update, and Stepan's Third Star
Following a day off on Sunday, the Rangers practiced not just once, but twice, on Monday as they began preparing for their first-round playoff series against the Washington Capuitals, which begins Thursday in D.C. After a 45-minute morning session, the team left the ice so that the zamoboni could resurface the sheet at the MSG Training Center, only to return to work on special teams exclusively in an early-afternoon practice.
Neither Ryane Clowe nor Brian Boyle were healthy enough to take part in the practices on Monday. Derek Dorsett once again practiced while wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, and afterwards stated that he is hopeful of being able to return to game action during the first-round series with Washington.
Marc Staal continued to practice with the team as he tries to work his way back from a major eye injury sustained in early March. Staal's conditioning and on-ice play look stronger by the day, and he got quite the workout Monday defending against the Rangers top power play unit in the second part of practice.
"I haven't written myself off," Staal said of possibly playing at some point against in the Capitals series. "As of right now I have not made a decision one way or the other. Just every day I get more work in and try and improve and get ready."
Staal is making sure he does not take any shortcuts and does not rush back from this serious injury, especially because each game---each shift, really---is so important in the playoffs.
"I want to make sure I'm confident and comfortable on the ice to play in a playoff game," explained Staal. "I am working hard to get there as fast as I can."
Head coach John Tortorella alluded to the fact Monday that not starting this series until Thursday could be somewhat beneficial for the Rangers since it would allow the walking wounded another day or two of rest and recovery.
Tortorella also praised center Derek Stepan, who was named the NHL's Third Star of the Month for April for registering 19 points (8-11-19) and a +14 plus/minus rating in 14 games.
"He has evolved," Tortorella said of Stepan. "He started the year as out No. 2 center, and I worried if he could handle that. And now he's our No. 1 center. I am totally confident he will be able to handle things going into this playoff series."
Rugged winger Micheal Haley joined the Rangers at practice, one of four players skating on the fourth line along with Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, and Kris Newbury. The rest of the line combinations remained as they were in the regular season finale Saturday against the Devils.