Dominic Moore glided onto the ice at Madison Square Garden with his own blue bucket of pucks, the first healthy player to make an appearance during the most optional of optional skates Saturday morning.
He skated with James Sheppard and Chris Summers, took shots on Cam Talbot and made his way back to a Rangers locker room where media outnumbered a handful of players about 5-1.
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If there is anything that can be said about Moore, it's this: He is a consistent, grounding presence. His Harvard intelligence translates to the ice and his skill on faceoffs and as a two-way center have anchored a fluctuating fourth line that often has struggled to find its rhythm.
And let's not forget that his shot sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final last year; his Game 6 goal sent the Montreal Canadiens packing.
Playing in his 71st postseason game Saturday night, the 34-year-old was flanked by the fourth line's current configuration: Tanner Glass and Jesper Fast. And though that line has found some stability, since the trade deadline, Moore has been the only regular component -- having been joined by Glass, Fast, Sheppard, J.T. Miller and Lee Stempniak, who was traded.
As the line found its groove late in the season, so did he. Moore had four goals and two assists in the final six games of the regular season.
"It's always a work in progress, still, as is the team," Moore said about his line. "We're always trying to improve. That's always been my focus: to improve individually and try and help the line improve during the season. It hasn't been that easy at times, we might eventually get to a good place, but we feel good."
He's certainly shown progress on his own. Heading into Saturday night's game, he had 27 points (10 goals), his highest point total since the 2010-11 season, when he had 32. Moore has a .545 faceoff percentage at even strength and .516 in shorthanded situations.
His contributions have led to success on the penalty kill -- the Rangers had a sixth-best .843 penalty-kill percentage in 235 regular-season chances. He has three game-winning goals to his name this season.
Moore also is an 11-year veteran who has played for nine clubs, including the Penguins in 2006. He's seen the playoffs evolve to their current, frenzied state, and he's quietly gone about making sure his pace matches or exceeds that of his opponent.
"I always look forward to playing in the playoffs," he said. "It's hard to put a finger , but the intensity is always there. The game always gets faster."
That hasn't seemed to handicap his play. After all, the more things change, the more Moore stays the same.
With Steve Zipay