Morning Skate in Anaheim: Moving On With Better Balance
Following a day off on Wednesday, the Rangers were back on the ice for their morning skate Thursday at the Honda Center. And it came none too soon for the Rangers players who were still stinging from their 9-2 loss in San Jose Tuesday night.
"Yesterday I was thinking how excited I'd be to get on the ice because as player you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth as fast as you can and get that confidence as a team back," explained alternate captain Marc Staal on Thursday morning. "I was anxious to get out out there and play, and now I think everyone is excited to go out and play."
The theme in the Rangers' dressing room was one of turning the page. It is exactly what Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Callahan among others expressed following Tuesday's sour loss, and what head coach Alain Vigneault and his players stressed after the morning skate in Anaheim.
"We saw what it was (Tuesday), we addressed it with the team this morning, and now our whole focus is on Anaheim tonight," stated Vigneault.
Added Brad Richards, "We've addressed it...yesterday was a pretty long day, we wanted to get right back on the ice. We talked about it and now we have to trust in each other how that can't happen again and how we have to take pride in our name and the emblem on our jersey. It's up to us to respond now."
The Rangers will have to move on in the short term, at least, without star forward Rick Nash, who returned to New York on Wednesday after being elbowed in the head Tuesday by San Jose's Brad Stuart. With Nash unavailable Thursday night, and coming off such a dreary overall team performance in their prior game, Vigneault decided to switch up his forward line combinations, and his defense pairings for the contest with the Ducks.
Vigneault switched Brad Richards back to center, where he will skate tonight in between Callahan and Benoit Pouliot, and moved Brian Boyle to the wing where he will skate on a line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. While the fourth line of Derek Dorsett-Dominic Moore-Arron Asham remains intact, Vigneault reconfigured his third ine to have Derek Stepan centering Taylor Pyatt and rookie Jesper Fast, who returns to the lineup in the place of the injured Nash.
"With Rick being out of the equation that obviously changes our lineup because we are losing one of our top players," explained Vigneault. "So tonight we felt that we neded better balance, and we think these four lines give us that better balance."
On defense Vigneault now has Marc Staal paired with Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh with Anton Stralman, and John Moore with Micheal Del Zotto. The head coach pointed out Thursday that he thought Stralman was the team's best defenseman Tuesday night in San Jose.
"It gives us a different look, so we're just going to go with it and try and right the ship as quick as we can no matter who we are out there with," said Staal.