After playing a fifth game in seven days Monday, the New York Rangers certainly earned a day off. So after losing 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3, coach Alain Vigneault didn't hesitate to give his players 24 hours to themselves.
Vigneault hopes that day of rest will come in handy when the Rangers host Game 4 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We've been in the most challenging part of our schedule so far," Vigneault said in a conference call Tuesday. "I'm extremely proud of how they responded and how they played. In our first nine-plus periods against [Pittsburgh], there's seven-plus that I've really liked. Having today to get away from the game a little bit, [get] re-energized, guys are going to come back tomorrow and I know they're looking forward to this next game."
Looking through his roster for fresh legs, Vigneault made a slew of changes to his lineup in Game 3. Defenseman Raphael Diaz and forwards J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast were all inserted after being healthy scratches for varying stretches of time. Playing his first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Diaz fired a team-high six shots and provided a spark to the Rangers' struggling power play.
Vigneault hinted he could return with that lineup in Game 4. Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series 2-1.
"I just felt last night that maybe making a few subtle changes would help our team," Vigneault said. "It didn't help as far as the outcome of the game, but I thought if you analyze our process and the way we played, it was pretty darn good."
One of the Rangers' freshest pair of legs could potentially be inching his way back into the lineup. Forward Chris Kreider has been out with a hand injury since March 24, and Vigneault confirmed he's been skating and would be re-evaluated by New York's medical staff in the next day or two.
Vigneault wouldn't update the timeline for Kreider's return, but he couldn't dispute how important the 6-foot-3 wing's presence would be for a team that hasn't scored in two straight games.
"The size and the speed would put pressure on their defense. [Kreider] was real good with the net presence on the power play," Vigneault said." He would definitely bring a lot to our lineup, there's no doubt there."