A number of key veterans, including Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen, did not skate Thursday and will not play at MSG. With so many injuries the Red Wings have relied on their prospects, a number of whom won the Calder Cup last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The latest of those prospects to arrive in the NHL is 21-year-old Tomas Jurco, who was recalled from Grand Rapids on Tuesday after an earlier seven-game NHL stint.
"There's lots of stuff I learn every day," Jurco said. "One of them is consistency. Just to be good every night. Even if there is no game just to be great at practice."
Jurco said having so many familiar faces in the room has made adjusting to the League that much easier.
"It's good for me," he said. "I'm used to all those guys being my teammates for the last couple of years. It's good to have them here. It makes me feel a little more comfortable."
Many of the players from that Calder Cup team have been inserted into the Red Wings lineup at some point this season, including goaltender Petr Mrazek, forwards Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Luke Glendening, and defenseman Brian Lashoff.
"I think the young guys have done a great job," veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "They're the ones who have been keeping us afloat here. We've had a lot of injuries and they've really made a case for themselves. I was not as polished [at that age]. It was different when I got into the League. I wasn't as ready mentally or physically as these guys are today."
The Red Wings did get some positive news on the injury front when defenseman Jonathan Ericsson skated and said he felt good. He hasn't played since injuring his ribs Dec. 23 and will require at least a few more days before getting back into Detroit's lineup.
"Skating-wise it feels pretty good. I just haven't really tested it with battling hard. I've got to see what the doctors say," Ericsson said. "I don't really want to take a chance, and they don't want me to take chance of playing and getting injured again. We have too many injuries this season. If I'm going to have to sit out a couple more games that's probably the case."
Jimmy Howard, who also has battled injuries this season, will start in net for Detroit after Mrazek started in a 1-0 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Jonas Gustavsson also skated with Detroit on Sunday but remains out with a groin injury. Henrik Lundqvist will make his sixth straight start in net for the Rangers.
Riding a 6-2-1 stretch, the Rangers admit there will be some challenges in facing a team that features so many unfamiliar faces.
"When they call someone up it's for a specific role," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "Their top six [forwards] is still always going to be very skilled because of how they draft and how they develop. I don't think you miss a beat, really. They're going to play a Detroit style, which is not to force something if it's not there."
Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Rangers:
Scratched: Mikael Samuelsson
Scratched: Justin Falk
Injured: Derek Dorsett (broken fibula)