NASHVILLE -- Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed following Monday's morning skate at Bridgestone Arena that both Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein will return to the lineup following extended injury absences tonight when the team faces off with the Predators in Nashville.
Girardi and Klein will not be the only veterans making a return this evening. Back up goaltender Antti Raanta will dress for the first time in four games following a head injury, and winger Viktor Stalberg draws back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous two games.
"It's how it goes sometimes, but it's good to be back," Stalberg said prior to facing his former team this evening. "In the big scheme of things I feel good about my game, but the past few maybe it's not as good as I would have liked. We have a good team, so if you're not on your A Game you'll find yourself out of the lineup."
Stalberg, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent his past summer after a pair of admittedly unfulfilling seasons with the Predators, has scored three goals, added six assists, totaled nine points, and owns a +6 plus/minus rating this year so far in 30 games played. The last time he was scratched from the lineup prior to the previous two matches--December 11 at Edmonton--Stalberg responded with assists in each of his next two outings.
"For me it's getting back to being a little more physical out there, playing more the way I did earlier in the year," explained the 29 year-old Stalberg. "Sometimes you get away from how you're supposed to play in the middle of the season, but I think I want to be more of a factor every time I'm out on the ice, be more physical and bring more energy."
Stalberg will play at even strength on a line with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass tonight. Vigneault also stressed that he will play a big role on the penalty kill against the red-hot Nashville power play which is quarterbacked by two of the top quarterbacks in the league, Shea Weber and Roman Josi.
"They're good, one of the top (group of) defensemen in the league, and that's where they generate so much of their offense from," offered Stalberg. "Their forwards have not done much this season, but their defensemen have been really good. They are not easy to play against."
Klein, another former Predator, will return to the Rangers lineup this evening after missing 11 straight games with an oblique injury. He told reporters that not rushing back and taking advantage of the full five-day Christmas holiday break really was key to his recovery.
"I think the extra five days off just to help make sure I was ready is a real positive," Klein told reporters after the morning skate. "I was able to skate on my own and work out a few times over the break and keep fresh; and I felt really good out there this morning."
Klein will pair with Keith Yandle on the blue line, while Girardi will skate alongside Ryan McDonagh.
Vigneault joked after the skate, "I looked at Danny the past two days...he's almost brand new, or as brand new as that old body can be!"