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Prospal hoping for return to lineup

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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By Jim Cerny,

Rangers forward Vinny Prospal, the team’s second-leading scorer with 58 points last season, practiced without any limitations again on Thursday and is likely to make his preseason debut when the Rangers visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday evening.

Prospal had hoped to play on Friday against Ottawa at MSG, but was a late scratch in favor of Erik Christensen.

Prospal had been set back by some soreness in his knee that flared up due to the intense skating and conditioning drills that have taken place during training camp. The 35-year-old forward did not actually injure the knee, and his absence from pre-season games has just been a precaution.

“Obviously I would have liked to play more (during the preseason) because the preseason is for you to get ready for the regular season,” said Prospal. “It’s always harder on the players that miss training camp or are unable to play the games. It’s harder to get into playing shape again. So I want to play, and I need to play.”

Rangers alternate captain Vinny Prospal expects to play in both of the team's last two preseason games and is excited about a chance to play center  on the No. 1 line between Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov.
During Thursday’s practice, Prospal skated at center between wingers Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov on the top line. If that threesome stays intact on Friday, Prospal would be excited to reunite with Gaborik -- with whom he had excellent on-ice chemistry last season -- and to get the chance to skate with Frolov, a newcomer with a pair of 30-goal seasons on his NHL resume.

“Gaby and I played well together last year,” said Prospal. “And from watching Frolov in years past, the thing that stands out is how strong he is on the puck, especially in the corners. And there is the motivating factor because he’s coming off a tough season. There’s nothing better than to prove people wrong, and that’s what he wants to do.”

Rangers head coach John Tortorella is anxious to get Prospal into game action before the regular season starts. And both coach and player are hopeful that Prospal will not only play Friday, but Saturday night in Ottawa, as well.

Tortorella holds the same feeling for defenseman Steve Eminger, who has been slowed by a sore groin. Eminger has played in only one preseason game, but is slated to dress on Friday night at The Garden.

“It’s important for them to play,” Tortorella said of Prospal and Eminger. “They need to see game situations and game speed to get ready.”

The two games against the Senators are the final games on the Rangers’ pre-season schedule. Tortorella said on Thursday that final cuts will be made to the roster on Sunday after management and the coaching staff evaluate the final two exhibition games.

Rangers centers learn from a legend

Tortorella had quite the surprise for his centers on Thursday. The head coach asked Rangers legend, and current Special Assistant to the President, Mark Messier, to join practice and tutor the centers on faceoffs.

Mark Messier
Messier obliged and discussed the importance of winning draws and of puck possession following the faceoff itself. He also discussed technique, attitude, and approach to winning faceoffs, and then watched and critiqued as the centers squared off against one another.

“That was pretty cool,” said Brian Boyle. “Everyone listened to every word he had to say. To hear advice from one of the greatest players in the game, you just want to soak it all in. I mean Messier is a God!”

Tortorella explained after the workout that Messier will join the team on ice at different points throughout the season, as his schedule permits, to tutor the players in various aspects of the game.

“It’s great for the coaching staff that he is here with us, and it’s great for the players,” said Prospal. “Who else are you going to look up other than someone like (Messier)? He was one of the best faceoff men during his time.”
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