After nearly an hour on the ice practicing Friday in Anaheim, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault decided not to hold a full-squad morning skate Saturday in St. Louis as the team readies to play the Blues at Scottrade Center. With the team looking to snap a two-game skid, while playing for the fourth time in six nights, Vigneault also has chosen to start Martin Biron in goal this evening against the Blues.
"Four games in six nights with the traveling, it just makes sense to put Marty in there," Vigneault told reporters on Friday. "He got a little chance to play in San Jose. He'll play (Saturday)."
Biron, who was one of four Rangers to skate Saturday morning along with Henrik Lundqvist, Arron Asham and Justin Falk, did make his season debut during the Rangers' 9-2 loss to the Sharks Tuesday night. Entering midway through the game in relief of Lundqvist, a difficult spot for sure against the surging Sharks, Biron allowed five goals on 21 shots. Tonight he will face a Blues team which has scored 14 goals in its first three games, all wins---another tough spot for the 36 year-old netminder.
Vigneault explained that it was his plan all along to give Biron a start in this busy stretch, though it wasn't always certain it would be tonight in St. Louis. Over his previous three years with the Rangers Biron has often given the team a spark when he filled in for Lundqvist, and certainly Vigneault is hoping that will be the case again tonight.
Last season Biron appeared in only six games, making five starts, in the truncated lockout-shortened schedule. Biron was 2-2-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .917 save percentage while Lundqvist carried the heavy work load in goal and the Blueshirts scrapped to make the playoffs. Similar to this season, Biron's first appearance in 2013 was in relief of Lundqvist---against the Penguins on January 20th. He then made 30 saves in winning his first start of the season, a 3-2 victory over the Lightning down in Tampa on February 2nd.
Two years ago Biron gave the Rangers the kind of season Vigneault is seeking from his back-up goaltender this year. In 2011-12 Biron appeared in 21 games, posted a 12-6-2 record with two shutouts, and a 2.46 goals against average. That solid play afforded Lundqvist more days off and more practice days. The end result was Lundqvist's first Vezina Trophy.
For now the Rangers are most concerned about one game---not an entire season's worth. The Blueshirts will look to Martin Biron tonight in St. Louis to help them get back on the right track.