When the Rangers worked on their struggling power play during practice Friday afternoon at the MSG Training Center Raphael Diaz, who has yet to play in a game this season with the team, was manning one of the point positions on the second unit.
Is this a sign that the 30 year-old veteran of four NHL teams will be in the lineup when the Rangers try and keep their season alive Saturday afternoon in Game Five of their first-round playoff series against the Penguins in Pittsburgh?
"That's a possibility I'm looking at," head coach Alain Vigneault stated when asked if Diaz might play Saturday. "Raffy is a guy that has played the power play before. We all know right now that our power play and our penalty killing are not at their best, so I'm looking for solutions there, and I'm looking at all options right now."
One of the main reasons why the Rangers trail their best-of-seven with Pittsburgh 3-1 is how badly they have been outplayed so far on the specialty teams. The Rangers are just 1-for-16 on the power play, while the Penguins have scored at least once on the power play in all four games while going 7-for-19 on the man advantage.
"We have to win the special teams battle, simple as that," stated Chris Kreider after practice.
Added Keith Yandle, "We have to find a way, especially on the power play, to be a little bit more sure of ourselves so that we can make plays at the right time. We have to work together as a unit and help each other get out of it and play better and be more effective."
Diaz has 201 games of NHL experience and another 12 in the playoffs. In the spring of 2014, after being acquired from Vancouver, Diaz played in 11 regular season games with the Rangers and four in the post-season--including the decisive sixth game of the Eastern Conference Final and Game One of the Stanley Cup Final.
This year Diaz appeared in 37 games during an injury-plagued season with the Hartford Wolf Pack. When healthy he was productive and played well, in particular on the power play, finishing the season with six goals, 15 assists, and 21 points. Diaz notched four of his six goals on the power play with Hartford.
"He's not a total unknown, it's not like I haven't seen him play for our team before," Vigneault said of Diaz. "Unfortunately when we wanted to call him up this year he was injured. I know what he can bring to the table."
Vigneault would not commit to playing Diaz, and would not reveal what his lineup would look like for the must-win Game Five in Pittsburgh. He did add that injured defenseman Dan Girardi--who did practice once again on Friday--is still day to day.