BUFFALO -- When the Rangers take to the ice Thursday night at First Niagara Center in Buffalo former Sabres forward Taylor Pyatt will be back in the lineup as will defenseman John Moore. Head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that both players would return to game action after being healthy scratches the previous two games.
Pyatt will take the place of rugged forward Derek Dorsett, who is still battling a sore wrist — an injury which forced him to miss the Panthers and Bruins games on last week's just-completed road trip. Despite continued pain in the wrist, Dorsett played in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Canucks and Monday's 5-2 loss to the Jets, even engaging Tom Sestito in a fight Saturday afternoon.
After missing eight games due to a concussion, Pyatt took the hurt Dorsett's spot in the lineup last week in Florida and Boston before being scratched the last two games. On the season Pyatt — who played from 2001-02 to 2005-06 with the Sabres — has one assist and ten penalty minutes in 18 games played.
As to which defenseman will come out of the lineup with John Moore's return Thursday, Vigneault stated that an unnamed d-man is hurt and may not be able to play.
"On D one of our guys is a little bit banged up, so it'll probably be a game-time decision," explaiend Vigneault.
At the optional morning skate — in which six players took part — three defensemen were on the ice. Moore was out there as was Anton Stralman and Justin Falk. The last two players on the ice taking part in a conditioning skate were Falk and Dorsett leading to speculation that they would both be scratched Thursday. Stralman said he was "good" as he hustled to make the team bus after the optional skate.
Vigneault said he wanted to get Moore back in the lineup after two games out, and referred to the 23 year-old's "tremendous amount of upside". Moore has two goals, three assists, and five points in 26 games played this season, and has a minus-three plus/minus rating.
The head coach also called out his defense corps to be better, stating that only one of the team's seven defensemen has played at or beyond expectations this season.
"The only one on D in my opinion that has not only played up to expectations, but where you see a lot of upswing, is (Ryan) McDonagh," stated Vigneault. "All the other guys, I think, have better to give and we're going to need them to get better."
When asked specifically about alternate captain Marc Staal, Vigneault said that he thought Staal was going through "a rough patch" and that he had been hurt by "poor puck-related decisions".
"He did not play a lot the last couple of years," the head coach said of Staal, who missed 63 games due to injury the past two seasons. "That's probably a factor."
Along with Moore, Stralman, Falk, and Dorsett, the other two Rangers to take part in the optional skate were Pyatt and back up goaltender Cam Talbot. Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the first time in three games, dating to last Friday's 3-2 loss up in Boston.