DETROIT — The Rangers arrived here with reinforcements on Friday, having weathered a torrent of injuries.
It started in late January when Rick Nash went down with a bone bruise in his leg, followed by Jesper Fast’s broken nose and Marc Staal’s locked-up back.
They have been without goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms) for the last eight days.
Then there’s the flu bug pestering the locker room. The latest illness involves center Derick Brassard, who did not make the trip and is considered questionable against the Red Wings in Saturday’s matinee at Joe Louis Arena.
But Lundqvist will start for the Rangers (39-22-6, 84 points) for the first time since March 3, when he was accidentally knocked over by teammate Ryan McDonagh.
“He’s good to go,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who declared that there is “a very good chance” that Nash — who was cleared for contact after missing 20 games and went through a full-scale practice — will dress. Marc Staal also should be ready.
The return of Nash, who said he feels great, along with Brassard’s absence produced a new look, including a line with significant size and strength. Left wing Nash was paired with center Eric Staal (both 6-4) and Viktor Stalberg (6-3) on the right side. “That might be an area where it might make it more challenging for the opposition [to match up] . . . with either their top D-pair or top line. It’s something worth trying, ” Vigneault said.
Nash and Eric Staal were looking forward to the possibility. “I’ve played against big, strong guys and they’re hard to play against,” Staal said. “So we’ve got to be like that, hard to play against every shift, hang on to the puck in the offensive zone and hopefully cash in when the opportunity arises.”
Nash said “Stalberg brings so much speed, one of the best skaters in the league, and hopefully that opens things up.”
The trio of Derek Stepan between Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller remained intact, but Fast and Chris Kreider were moved to a third line, with Kevin Hayes centering, and Oscar Lindberg was dropped to the fourth line with Dom Moore and Tanner Glass.
If Brassard feels well enough to travel and play, there will be one extra forward, necessitating another tweak.