With Zuccarello Out, Plan A Depends On Dorsett's Health
While much of the hockey world was focused on the Bronze Medal Game between Finland and the United States on Saturday morning, the Rangers were busy at work--first taking part in on-ice conditioning testing and then skating in a 45-minute practice at the MSG Training Center.
After the practice Brian Boyle stood in the dressing room with his arms extended and jokingly proclaimed "We're No. 4!!", referring to the Unites States finish at the 2014 Winter Olympics following Saturday's 5-0 loss to Finland. While there was much laughter and good-natured teasing about Olympic results, to a man Ranger players and their head coach, Alain Vigneault, had high praise and respect for Finland's legendary Teemu Selanne, who took part in his sixth Winter Games and scored twice in the Bronze Medal contest.
"He's a great player, 43 years old to be still playing the way he is," Vigneault marvelled in speaking about Selanne. "It's just incredible."
As for his own team, Vigneault stated that with Mats Zuccarello out with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand, his first option is to replace Zuccarello with Derek Dorsett in the lineup when the NHL season resumes next Thursday. Dorsett, of course, is coming off a 17-game absence himself due to a leg fracture and it's not yet known if he will be quite ready for game action by next week.
Dorsett has been wearing a non-contact jersey in his return to practice the past three days, and on Saturday he was able to get through both the testing and practice, which was most definitely a good sign. Dorsett said afterwards that he thinks he should be able to play next Thursday against the Blackhawks at The Garden, but must first see how his leg and body react to contact early next week.
"If there's a chance Dors can play then we have 12 healthy forwards, so we'll probably stay that way," Vigneault explained of his Plan A with Zuccarello out of the lineup. "If there's a chance that Dors may not play then when Glen (Sather) gets back we'll talk and figure out what we're going to do."
Zuccarello will miss 3-4 weeks of action from the time of his injury last Sunday, so he and the team are hopeful that the Rangers leading scorer will not miss too many NHL games once the season starts up again.
Defenseman Marc Staal sat out his second straight practice Saturday due to back spasms. Vigneault explained that Staal's back "seized up" after the team's return to on-ice workouts this past Thursday, and the expectation is that the alternate captain should be back to work early next week.
The Rangers will not practice on Sunday, and most--if not all--of the players likely will be tuned in to the Gold Medal Game in Sochi where teammates Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin lead Sweden into action against Rick Nash and Canada.