Following another tough night on Tuesday, the Rangers regrouped and went right back to work Wednesday at the MSG Training Center, with head coach Alain Vigneault liking what he was seeing from his team.
"I've been in this game a long time and this group works as hard in practices, off ice, and prior to our games, as much as any team I've been associated with," stated Vigneault Wednesday afternoon. "Usually when you have that type of effort it translates on to the ice, translates into bounces going the right way, but it hasn't so far at least to the consistent level we would like. I am confident it will, though."
The coaches had to juggle line combinations and the units for the power play and penalty kill units at practice now that Ryan Callahan has joined Marc Staal on the sidelines with a sprained knee. That injury — which occurred midway through the first period of Tuesday's 4-1 home ice loss to the Nashville Predators — will cost Callahan 4-6 weeks, while Staal — who suffered a concussion last Saturday — is out indefinitely.
No one at the team's practice facility on Wednesday was about to give in just because the Rangers have lost three in a row (0-2-1) and are now missing two of the three players who wear letters on their sweaters.
"You can't feel sorry for yourself, every team goes through injury problems over the course of a year," explained rugged winger Derek Dorsett, who returned Tuesday from a wrist injury himself. "We're going through it a bit right now, and we just have to deal with it as a group. We have to work harder, pick up the slack a little bit and take on more responsibilities. We need to pull together at a time like this."
Other players echoed Dorsett's sentiments, amid the coming challenge of facing motivated former teammates Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov Thursday night in the Rangers next game against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
"The Hockey Gods are testing us," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "The last few games we are not playing the way we are capable of, and testing our will and determination is fair to say. There's no question we have that determination and want to be successful as a group."
Not only were Staal and Callahan not practicing Wednesday, neither was center Derick Brassard who was given the day off to rest a sore backside, which was hurt when he fell hard to the ice during Tuesday's contest. Vigneault said later on that Brassard will be fine to play against his former club, the Blue Jackets.
When asked whether or not the team is considering calling a player up from the minor leagues, Vigneault explained that the coaches and management are currently discussing whether or not to do that. The one affirmative statement he did make regarding the lineup was to say that Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal against the Blues Jackets on Thursday.