TAMPA -- Ever so slowly the Rangers are inching towards having their entire lineup healthy and all on the ice at the same time. Taylor Pyatt, who has missed the past seven games due to a concussion and is the last of the sidelined Rangers, joined the team in Tampa yesterday after being cleared by doctors, and took part in Monday's full morning skate at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Though Pyatt is not ready yet for game action, he is feeling much better and is getting much closer to a return to the lineup.
"Taylor is doing fine," stated head coach Alain Vigneault after the morning skate. "He's been working out a little more than 10 days. He's been cleared for all activity, and he should be ready for us soon."
Pyatt, who has one assist and ten penalty minutes in 16 games played this year, suffered the concussion on an elbow to the head delivered by Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin in a game played in Columbus on November 7th. The veteran forward told reporters down in Tampa that he saw replays of the hit and absolves Tyutin of any ill intent. He also admitted to having headaches and feeling "grogginess" in the days immediately after being hurt, though he has felt much better now the past two weeks or so.
As is usually the case with injured Rangers forwards when returning from injury, Vigneault had Pyatt skate as an eighth defensemen alongside Justin Falk during morning drills. He was wearing a regular jersey---as opposed to a non-contact one---and hopes to return to the lineup soon, even though he told reporters that there is no set timetable for that return just yet.
Injuries to Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Rick Nash, Dom Moore, Henrik Lundqvist, and now Pyatt have robbed Vigneault of the chance to dress his full healthy lineup even one time this season. The Rangers currently have suffered 52 man-games lost to injury, lead by Nash who missed 17 with a head injury, and Hagelin who missed the first ten games following off-season shoulder surgery.
LINEUP STAYS IN TACT
The Rangers will dress the same lineup Monday as they did in Saturday's 2-0 win in Nashville, the only exception being that Henrik Lundqvist starts in goal, while Saturday's winning goaltender Cam Talbot will serve as the back-up. As Brian Boyle emphasized the other day, the Rangers have full confidence in both of their goaltenders---one who is a yearly Vezina Trophy candidate, and the other who has won five of his first six games between the pipes, inluding a pair of shutouts in a row.
Lundqvist enters play 7-9-0 in 17 appearances with a 2.36 goals against average and .921 save percentage, while Talbot is 5-1-0 with a miniscule 1.32 goals against average and extremely-healthy .949 save percentage. He and Lundqvist are both tied for the second most shutouts in the NHL, one behind Ben Scrivens of Los Angeles who has three.
"We are extremely fortunate to have a pair of goalies who are both playing so well, goalies that we have so much trust in," said Ryan McDonagh. "(Talbot) has come in here and be real comfortable, played really good; and Henrik is Henrik, one of the best in the world."
With Vigneault not making any lineup changes, that means J.T. Miller will be a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game, while Justin Falk sits out his third straight after having played three in a row.