The Rangers are inching closer to be back to 100 percent, as both Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein could return as early as Friday in Winnipeg.
Both players took part in the team’s full practice Wednesday before the team boarded a flight to Minnesota for Thursday’s game with the Wild, with each remaining optimistic that they could return to the lineup before the weekend.
Stepan has been out since Nov. 27 with broken ribs, while Klein has been sidelined since Nov. 30 with a strained oblique.
While neither player completely ruled out starting Thursday, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault stated Friday would be the more realistic option.
“Both have a chance to play not tomorrow, Friday,” Vigneault said. “I would say Step is ahead of Kleiner at this time.”
Vigneault joked that Klein was hearing it from his fellow countrymen that Stepan — an American — was healing faster than Klein.
“I think we will stick with day-to-day, need to see how it reacts (after taking contact Wednesday),” Stepan said. “We are pushing it more each day, see how I feel tomorrow.”
Klein said the contact was a welcome addition to his rehab, and that at this point it’s a conditioning issue as much as anything.
“I didn’t do much the first 10 dyas but then I was on the bike and skating pretty hard,” Klein said. “I think the conditioning will come pretty quickly.”
Defenseman Dan Girardi will not make the trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg, as he’ll stay behind nursing a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Vigneault said the issue isn’t worse than the team had originally thought, and that he remains day-to-day.
Chris Kreider was given a maintenance day and did not skate.