GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers were working a two-on-one drill near the end of practice yesterday at the MSG Training Center, one man passing the puck from behind the goal line to another for a point-blank shot on Henrik Lundqvist, testing the goaltender again and again from each side.
The tougher test for Lundqvist and the Rangers comes Friday night against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
With only five games left before the postseason, Lundqvist needs a quick turnaround. After missing eight games with a strained hip, he allowed five goals in each of the last two. Alain Vigneault said he will play four of the remaining games.
“I think each day is easier, and it gets closer to where you need to be, especially when you’ve been out for three weeks,” Lundqvist said.
The Rangers have been so-so of late and unable to win at the Garden. The Blueshirts clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night in San Jose when they gained a point in an overtime loss, but now they return to home bittersweet home. They’re on a seven-game slide there, including two shootout losses, and know they need to quickly turn it into an unfriendly rink for the visitors.
“It’s a huge deal,” Rick Nash said. “We’ve always harped on it, to make it a hard place to play, and obviously our record doesn’t show that. So we’ve got to make sure we’re a lot better at home and kind of play that more simple road style at home.”
The Rangers are 27-10-2 on the road but only 19-16-3 at home.
“Like the power play turned around, it’s going to turn around at home, too,” Vigneault said.
The Rangers want to tighten their play in the defensive zone and find some overall consistency and momentum.
“We talked about that this morning, playing the right way right into the playoffs,” Nash said.
They’re 1-2-2 in their last five, 3-4-3 in their last 10 and 6-7-3 in their last 16. The Rangers are one point away from clinching the Eastern Conference’s top wild card.
“We’ve got a dangerous team,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “I think when we’re rolling and feeling good, we’re a very hard team to beat.”
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh didn’t practice. Vigneault said it was for “maintenance” but also called him “day-to-day” with “a good chance he’s going to play.” . . . Jimmy Vesey skated as an extra, but Vigneault said the rookie forward “will be in the lineup for the playoffs.”