Derick Brassard on a hot streak for Rangers
After signing a five-year, $25-million contract in late July, Derick Brassard has been streaky. Going scoreless in his first two games of the season, he notched a goal in the next three, then went three games with just an assist.
But with a game-winning goal and assist in Wednesday night's 4-3 victory over the Red Wings, he showed that he has caught fire again. He has two goals and five assists in the last four games and has five goals and 11 points on the season.
In Columbus, Brassard said, "I never had a taste of the playoffs, playing big games. After being traded here, it [the experience] really helped me for this year."
Hunwick on a roll
Matt Hunwick, 29, featured in Newsday's Sunday Insider as a player who is making the most of his opportunity, recorded two assists Wednesday nightand has five assists in the last four games. Hunwick, who made the team as the seventh defenseman, was on the ice for 21:40. "He's making the best of it right now," said Henrik Lundqvist. "He's playing a lot more minutes. He's a smart player, a great skater."
Girardi a 30-minute man
Defenseman Dan Girardi played 30:51, crossing the 30-minute mark for the third consecutive game. He is the first Ranger to log that many minutes since Brian Leetch in the 2000-01 season, with eight consecutive games.
Stepan could return Saturday
Center Derek Stepan, recovering from a broken left fibula, is so eager to play that he will skate Thursday on the team's off day. Stepan, who took some contact late in Wednesday's morning skate at Madison Square Garden, said he will practice again Friday.
Barring a setback, he is likely to dress for the first time this season against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday.
"I'm still day-to-day," said Stepan, the team's second-leading scorer last season. "I pushed it a little more today."
When Stepan returns, it will have a domino effect down the middle. He is likely to replace Derick Brassard on the first line with Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis on the wings. Brassard could be reunited with Mats Zuccarello.
Free-agent Czech defenseman Tomas Kaberle, 36, who was invited to skate with the team, had some immigration issues in Toronto, and was not in New York Wednesday morning. The Rangers are not scheduled to practice Thursday, so Kaberle, a longtime Maple Leaf, may be on the ice for practice Fridaybefore the team heads to Toronto.
With defenseman Kevin Klein and Zuccarello back in the lineup, Dylan McIlrath was sent back to Hartford, and Ryan Malone was a healthy scratch against the Red Wings . . . Wednesday night's game was the 900th coached by Alain Vigneault. "It's a number," he said before the game. "It's just an honor and a privilege to coach in this league. It's a lot of hockey games; I hope to keep coaching a few more." . . . All of the Rangers wore pink chin straps on Hockey Fights Cancer night and during warm-ups; some used lavender tape on their sticks before they are auctioned.
Despite the win, coach Alain Vigneault lamented penalties that changed momentum, including Dom Moore's goaltender interference midway through the first and Marc Staal's hold in a scrum at 19:29 . . . The power play, which was 1-21 at MSG, scored twice and is 3-for-7 the past two games . . . The last time the Rangers played three straight overtime games was in March 2008.