NHL teams don’t typically get a lot of practice time during the season, so a week like this is a rarity.
After a 4-3 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the Rangers won’t play again until Saturday, when they will face the Florida Panthers in the first of a two-game road trip that includes a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That means, after a day off Monday, the Rangers will have four days to rest, get healthy and practice as long and as hard as they want, going to work at fixing whatever parts of their game have deteriorated lately.
“Hopefully we can start getting back a couple guys [we] need to be in the lineup — some important pieces,’’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said when asked what the team will be able to do with all this time between games. “And [we need to] continue to work on small things that we need to do better . . .
“We got away from our game a little bit, I think, the last week or so. This is an opportunity for us now to work on it this week [and] remind ourselves why we had success for a few weeks. We relied a lot on hard work and attention to details. That’s how we’re going to get back on track.’’
Forward Mats Zuccarello has missed 11 of the team’s last 13 games with a nagging groin injury and Vladislav Namestnikov missed the last three games while in concussion protocol after a massive hit he took against Ottawa on Nov. 26.
The Rangers are on a 1-4-1 skid after going 9-1-1 in their previous 11 games. After a couple of ragged performances in which they gave up too many odd-man rushes, coach David Quinn had the team tighten up its defensive effort against Winnipeg. But in doing so, he said, the Rangers might not have been aggressive enough offensively.
“We’ve got to find that balancing act of being aggressive and being smart,’’ Quinn said after the Rangers were outshot 42-19 and coughed up a 3-0 lead to the Jets. “We were kind of anticipating being probably more conservative, because we didn’t want to give up the odd-man rushes, and I don’t think we did. But we’ve got to continue to be aggressive. Our ‘D’ have to continue to be active in the offensive zone, you’ve got to have good gaps, so it might be a little bit of a balancing act.’’
On Monday, the team sent backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and forwards Vinni Lettieri and Matt Beleskey to AHL Hartford, which has a game Wednesday at Bridgeport against the Islanders’ Sound Tigers team.
Georgiev, who is 4-4-0 in eight appearances with the Rangers, has twice gone down to Hartford. He is 2-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in three games there.
Dustin Tokarski was called up from Hartford and will serve as the second goaltender in practice until Georgiev gets back.