Despite Cam Talbot's continued glee over Canada's gold medal-winning performance in men's ice hockey, the Rangers are beginning to put the 2014 Winter Olympics in their rear-view mirror as things return to a more normal mid-season state around the team. On Monday the Blueshirts' six remaining Olympians arrived back in New York from Sochi, Russia, and the rest of their Ranger teammates took part in an hour-long practice at the MSG Training Center.
The Ranger Olympians are not required to be back on the ice until Wednesday's practice, the day before the team returns to game action against the Blackhawks Thursday at Madison Square Garden. However it would not be surprising if several, if not all, of the six Olympians make an off-ice appearance at the training center Tuesday.
No matter what, head coach Alain Vigneault plans to speak with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday to gauge where he's at "physically and mentally" following the long travel home and the heavy workload he put in while helping Sweden secure a silver medal in Sochi. Based on that conversation Vigneault will decide if Lundqvist or Cam Talbot will start in goal Thursday against Chicago, and what the goalie rotation will be this weekend as the Rangers return to action with three games in four days.
"I don't think the number of minutes he played will make a difference," Vigneault said of Lundqvist, who played every second in each of Sweden's six Olympic games. "I want to find out about the travel and how he feels. Hank can play a lot of minutes. I want to know how he is physically and emotionally. Different time zones will affect players."
For his part, Talbot said after practice that no one has told him anything about Lundqvist getting some rest after the Olympics.
"Obviously Hank played a lot when he was there, but everyone knows that Hank likes to play so I think if they give him that chance he'll be right back in there," offered Talbot. "He doesn't like to give up the net too often. He's a competitor, so I'm sure they'll talk to him the next couple of days and then we'll know."
While that is one decision the Rangers head coach has to make before Thursday, another important one is how to replace the injured Mats Zuccarello in the lineup. Vigneault's preference is to insert Derek Dorsett to take Zuccarello's spot, though Dorsett is coming off an injury himself — a fractured fibula which has already caused him to miss 17 games.
Dorsett, who has skated with his teammates since last Thursday, was cleared for contact Monday and took part in the full practice. Afterwards he stated that he felt much better on Monday than he had the previous days of practice, and that he "feels good" about his chances of returning to the lineup against Chicago on Thursday night.
The head coach indicated that he will decide after Tuesday's practice if Dorsett is ready to go, or if a forward will need to be summoned from Hartford.
"I talked to Dors quickly today on the ice and he said he's feeling much better, so we'll talk again tomorrow," explained Vigneault. "Depending upon the answer I get we'll make a decision on what to do then."
STAAL STILL OUT
Defenseman Marc Staal did not practice again on Monday due to back spasms. He has missed the last three on-ice sessions after taking part in Thursday's practice. There was no further update on his condition Monday.
The Rangers have seven defensemen on their active roster. Justin Falk is the extra d-man, and he has been a healthy scratch in 19 consecutive games. Falk last played in Tampa on December 29th.
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