The Rangers will ride six defensemen for the next four games and only summon an extra if necessary. A decision for a spare forward, however, could come sooner.
“Roster-wise, we’re at 22, and there’s always the question of the money,” coach Alain Vigneault said while answering a question about carrying a seventh defenseman with Marc Staal (concussion) missing his fifth game. “Whoever we would call up is playing in Hartford, a quick call, car service and they’re here.”
The Rangers play in Toronto Thursday night, come home and then fly to Detroit for Sunday’s matinee. The final two games before the All-Star break begins next Thursday are at Madison Square Garden. Staal is skating regularly on his own, and a team spokesman said he won’t be put on long-term injured reserve.
“We’ll probably keep 13 forwards and seven D [after the break], but money is an issue and that’s always a concern,” Vigneault said. “The closer you get to the trade deadline [Feb. 28], the more cash you have, the better off you’ll be sometimes.”
But the Rangers are nearing a forward surplus. Oscar Lindberg was a healthy scratch Tuesday night in favor of Brandon Pirri, whom Vigneault likes on the power play. Matt Puempel (concussion), who would be a 14th forward, is expected to practice Wednesday.
Under Vigneault, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan have been the lone forwards playing regularly on the power play and penalty-kill; Vigneault likes to keep special-teams personnel separate. Mika Zibanejad, who returned after missing 26 games with a broken fibula, was reinstalled on the power play, but Zibanejad, who killed penalties in Ottawa, could see time on the PK. “He’s one of our better faceoff guys,” Vigneault said.
Raanta looks better
In a good sign, goaltender Antti Raanta, expected to be sidelined seven to 10 days with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday night in Montreal, was walking without a limp or wrap Tuesday.