GREENBURGH, N.Y. — More than the standard checkpoint in a long, winding season, this Christmas break represented a “reset button” for the Rangers.
“I think it almost came at a good time, really,” Dan Girardi said. “You kind of clear your head and think about what’s been going on the first couple of months.”
More than anything for the Rangers — who limped into the holiday break on a 4-9-2 skid and allowed 29 goals in their last five losses — a reset means fresh players. Kevin Klein (oblique), Dan Girardi (knee) and Antti Raanta (concussion) all participated at Sunday afternoon’s practice.
Klein, who missed 11 games because of the injury, and Girardi, who sat the past four games, are poised to return to the lineup Monday night in Nashville. The decision for them to play will come at morning skate, but coach Alain Vigneault is optimistic.
“Both of them look good, both of them felt good,” Vigneault said. “I would expect them both to play, but we’ll see how they react.”
Added Girardi: “Hopefully, if we both can go, we provide a little spark, a little I don’t know what, but we need something.”
Girardi suffered the knee injury when he blocked a shot in a game against Vancouver on Dec. 9. He played through it in the two games that followed, but opted to rest from there.
“It’s still pretty sore,” he said. “There’s a little crack in the kneecap. That was why there was swelling there. But it’s [gone] down a lot.”
Even before the injury, the 10th-year Ranger had struggled this season with his decision-making and poor plays with the puck.
“I think it’s a lot of stuff mentally,” he said. “It’s not a lot of stuff physically. It’s being more focused on the ice. I’ve being doing this for 10 years now, just making the right decision in the D-zone and making good reads. I’m not sure what happened along the way, but I’ve just got to figure that out. I know I can still do that.”
Raanta, meanwhile, said it was his first concussion. “We tried to be as careful as possible with it,” he said. “Christmas break came at a good time for me.”
He looked like his old self in practice, and even shrugged off a shot that lined off his mask.
“It was a good test to have a one-timer straight to the head,” Raanta said with a laugh. “Now you know that you’re fine to go.”