GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers likely will never skate again at Joe Louis Arena after Sunday night’s game in Detroit. The Joe is set to be knocked down, the Red Wings are all but set to miss the playoffs and their home slice of ice will be served at the new Little Caesars Arena starting next season.
This finale at the building that opened in 1979 means more to one of the Rangers in particular. Defenseman Brendan Smith was in his sixth season with the Wings before they traded him on Feb. 28.
“I guess it’ll be my last game at The Joe, so emotions are going to be different for me as they will be for some of the other players,” Smith said after practice Saturday at the MSG Training Center. “I’m going to try to take every moment in. I mean, I love that rink. It’s going to be sad to play there for the last time. But it’ll be exciting to be on the ice.
“I liked competing against a bunch of those guys in practice. So it’ll be fun to play against them.”
The Red Wings had seven teams ahead of them for the East’s second wild card entering the weekend and were 12 points back with 16 to play. Failing to make the playoffs would take on special significance. Detroit has reached the postseason for 25 straight years, the longest active streak among the four major professional sports in North America and tied for third in NHL history.
“A lot of pride,” Smith said. “ . . . Just being there for so long, it was such a testament to the organization. It’s a tough break that it looks like they’re not going to be able to swing it again.”
Michael Grabner (hip) missed the last five games and Rick Nash (upper body) missed the last one, but both forwards practiced. “I would say at this time I expect them to both be in unless something happens,” coach Alain Vigneault said . . . Right wing Jesper Fast (shoulder), out the last five games, skated in a non-contact jersey.