Friday Practice Report: Injuries Cause Shuffling of Lines
Perhaps Alain Vigneault should take up a side job as a juggler since he has become quite accustomed to doing just that with his forward line combinations over the first few weeks of the season. First he was forced to go without Ryan Callahan on opening night, then two games after Callahan returned, Rick Nash was forced from the lineup due to injury, and now Callahan once again will be sidelined. And all of that, which includes the moving of J.T. Miller and Arron Asham in and out of the lineup, has occurred with Carl Hagelin on LTIR and not available to play until the end of the month.
At present the Rangers head coach will have to move forward this weekend---and for the forseeable future---without Nash and Callahan, ther latter of whom will miss the next three-to-four weeks due to a broken thumb. So on Friday Vigneault unveiled another set of forward lines he will try out Saturday night when the Rangers skate against the Devils at The Prudential Center.
"It's definitely an opportunity for some other guys to have a bigger role and more ice-time and we're hoping that someone is going to grab that opportunity," Vigneault explained after practice on Friday. "Cally, you can't replace what he brings to the table, but we are hoping that some other guys will be able to take that opportunity, and I'm confident that will happen."
Veteran winger Taylor Pyatt, whom Vigneault had play on a line with the Sedin twins for some time several years ago in Vancouver, was moved up to the top line at practice on Friday. That would afford him the opportunity to play alongside Derick Brassard--who has four assists through the first six games---and Brad Richards---who leads the team in goals with four and points with seven.
Pyatt, who is scoreless so far this season after going 6-5-11 a year ago on Broadway, was even-keeled as expected when discussing his chance to play with Richards and Brassard on Friday.
"It's a great opportunity for me to play with some really skilled players, and get a chance on the power play, so I have to find a way to produce," said the 32 year old Pyatt. "I'll do some of the grunt work on that line, get around the net as much as possible, get to pucks, be strong on the walls. I'm excited about the opportunity and now have to do something with it."
Vigneault stated on Friday that he sees cycling the puck effectively down low as a real strength to Pyatt's game, and the coach thinks that's a real good fit with the more creative--yet solid on the cycle---pair of Brassard and Richards. He also added that Pyatt's "net presence" should mesh nicely with more the more creative Brassard and Richards.
The second line at practice featured Derek Stepan (0-5-5) in the middle of Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller---who are both scoreless so far this season. Miller moves up from the fourth line where he skated in Wednesday's 2-0 win over the Capitals. Moving down from the second line to the third line is Benoit Pouliot, who also is without a point through six games. He will skate alongside Brian Boyle and either Jesper Fast or Darroll Powe---who was just recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack where he scored one goal in four games.
"We have to make sure that guys that are not used to playing in certain roles are ready for it," Richards explained to BlueshirtsUnited.com on Friday. "Coaches prepare the game plan, but it's up to us inhere to make sure everyone is ready to go and for them to know what the challenge is ahead of them with new responsibilities."
As for what style of play the Rangers might embrace moving forward without two of their top offensive threats in Nash and Callahan, Richards found a quick answer.
"We might need to remind ourselves how simple we have to keep it," stated the team's top scorer this season. "And even more now with three guys out (including Hagelin) in our Top Six forwards. we have to keep an eye on each other so that we don't try to do things that are fancy or try to do it all on one play. It has to be more simplified and structured."
Michael Del Zotto returned to practice Friday after missing Wednesday's game due to the flu, but Vigneault did not commit to MDZ's immedaite return to the lineup. Vigneault said that he had not yet decided which six cefensemen to dress on Saturday and needed to "sleep on it" before finalizing his decision.
Justin Falk took Del Zotto's spot in the 2-0 D.C. win Wednesday, played 8:57, and got into a fight with Washington's Tom Wilson in the first period.