By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
For the first time since undergoing knee surgery back in mid-October Vinny Prospal took to the ice with his teammates this morning during the Rangers’ pregame skate at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Prospal has been skating on his own recently, and just yesterday skated with full equipment for the first time since the surgery prior to practice with assistant coach Mike Sullivan. Since there would be no contact drills at the morning skate today, Prospal was able to rejoin his teammates on the ice, making passes and even attempting a few shots on goal.
|Recuperating from his knee surgery on schedule, Rangers alternate captain Vinny Prospal is eager for the chance to sit on the bench in front of head coach John Tortorella once again. Tortorella said he expects Prospal back "sometime after Christmas". |
“It feels really great to be out there with the guys,” Prospal said afterwards. “If it was a regular practice, I would have been on my own, but it was OK for me to be out there during an optional skate. I am gradually increasing the workload and going from there. Right now all I can say is that I am on schedule.”
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this morning that his hope was that Prospal would be able to return “sometime after Christmas”. Prospal did not confirm nor refute that timetable, saying instead that he was taking everything “day by day”.
“By the time we actually get all of us on the ice then we will have three or four really good lines and will make it more difficult for the opposition,” Prospal said of his eventual return as well as that of Chris Drury, who has been sidelined with a broken finger. “We have been missing our key guys -- (Marian Gaborik
) was out, Dru is out, (Michal Rozsival) was out -- it’s made it easier for the opposition. But the guys have done well.”
Drury also took part in the morning skate, and it’s looking more and more like his return to the Rangers lineup is becoming imminent. On Sunday, Drury will have another set of x-rays taken, and the team captain is hoping the next step will be full clearance to play.
“I just hope the next test goes well and it doesn’t get more delayed, delayed, and delayed,” said Drury, who has played in only one game this season. “I wished I had a crystal ball where I could say it’s going to take this amount of time and I’ll be ready at a certain time. Then it would have been a little easier. Feeling like you are getting close and then getting pushed back another two weeks is tough to take.”Gilroy enters lineup for Del Zotto
Tortorella announced this morning that defenseman Michael Del Zotto
will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Rangers face the Senators. It will mark the first time in the young defenseman’s career that he has been a healthy scratch. Del Zotto missed two games in his rookie campaign a year ago, but both were for injury reasons.
“I’m not a negative guy,” said Del Zotto, 20. “It’s part of the learning curve and it’s just something I have to learn from to get better. I have to make the most of this experience and use it as an incentive to get better and get back in there.”
Tortorella said he felt Del Zotto had struggled some lately, particularly on the offensive side of the puck, and that he would benefit from a game off. After recording 37 points in 80 games a year ago, Del Zotto has notched just eight points (2-6-8) in 29 games this season, including three in his last 17 contests.
|Matt Gilroy |
“Offensively, my production is not where I’d like it to be and certainly not where it was last year, but I think I’ve improved on the defensive side of it,” said Del Zotto. “But I can’t let my focus on improving defensively affect my offensive game because that is one big reason why I am here is to contribute offensively.”
Tortorella said he will reinsert another second-year pro, Matt Gilroy, in the lineup tonight in Del Zotto’s place. Gilroy has been a healthy scratch ever since Rozsival returned from injury five games ago. On the season, Gilroy has three assists in 18 games.
“I think with young players sometimes it’s good to watch, it’s not a bad thing,” explained Tortorella. “(Del Zotto’s) game has not been bad, but it has teetered lately. So this won’t hurt him.”