Though he will miss his fifth straight game this evening with a sore knee, it certainly was a sight for sore eyes to see Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi on the ice for Tuesday's team morning skate at Madison Square Garden.
Girardi, who began skating on his own Monday, hit the Garden ice by himself around 10:00 Tuesday morning, about a half hour before the rest of his teammates. The team's alternate captain skated hard, tested his knee with various turns, and worked on his shot while skating solo, but then curtailed his activities once the rest of the squad began the formal practice.
Head coach Alain Vigneault said that "even though it's hard to predict" he's hopeful that both of the team's injured defensemen--Girardi and Kevin Klein--will be able to resume full hockey activities after the Christmas holiday break concludes next weekend. Klein will sit out his 11th consecutive contest this evening with a strained oblique.
After tonight's game against the Ducks, the Rangers will not play again until next Monday, the 28th, in Nashville against the Predators, the start of a three-game road trip.
Emerson Etem will skate against his former team, the Ducks, for the first time since he was traded to New York during the NHL Draft this past June, though he emphasized before the game that this contest is far more important from a team perspective than a personal one.
"I have some good friends still over there and I really enjoyed my time in Anaheim, it was a dream come true for a California kid to get to play at home," Etem told BlueshirtsUnited.com. "Tonight it's most important we play our game with a fast pace and lots of energy. The day off yesterday should be a benefit, our legs should be fresh. I'm looking forward to it."
Etem appeared in 112 regular season games and another 23 in the playoffs over three seasons with the Ducks, and was Anaheim's first-round selection in the 2010 NHL Draft.
In his first season on Broadway, Etem has appeared in 16 games and recorded three assists to date. His confidence has spiked recently and as a result Etem's play on the ice has been more forceful and decisive. Etem will be appearing in his seventh straight game tonight.
Veteran forward Viktor Stalberg again will be the healthy scratch for New York.
With three straight losses coming into tonight's contest, there is no way that the Rangers want to hit the holiday break riding a four-game skid; and Vigneault is sure that his team knows the importance of this evening's game.
"I'm confident our leadership group is very in tune with the importance of tonight's game," stated Vigneault following the morning skate. "At this point it's business and the players have to go out and play."