GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Rather than scramble the established lines and defense pairs after a mind-bending first 40 minutes against the Dallas Stars in the 2-1 shootout loss on Monday, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is relying on the team’s recent track record and the big picture.
So it will be status quo in Ottawa against the Senators on Wednesday, Vigneault said, citing the team’s “body of work” in the last month or so, when the winning percentage has been near the top of the NHL.
“I feel that if you look at the body of work in the last 15, 16, 17 games, it’s been pretty positive for our group, ’’ Vigneault said after practice on Tuesday. “So trust your players, trust the leadership group and go out and have a better game.”
Giving the players a mulligan? Not exactly.
Vigneault isn’t just flushing the loss to the Stars, a team that had lost three straight “and was all over us until the third,” said Marc Staal. That didn’t necessarily surprise the coach: “It seems this year more than ever, teams can take over a period; Monday night, they took two over.”
At practice, the Blueshirts worked on five-on-five play, getting pucks deep and tracking back, areas where they came up well short on Monday. “A lot of times (burning the video) is a good thing to do in an 82-game schedule, but there are a couple areas that could be good teaching moments,” Vigneault said.
Before Tuesday’s games, the Rangers (16-11-3, 35 points) had climbed into the second wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference. The Senators, who eliminated the Blueshirts in the second round of the playoffs last spring, are familiar foes and are scuffling with 25 points, ahead of only Buffalo in the East.
“We know them well, we know their system well, we know the areas we can exploit to have success,” said Vigneault. “I’m confident we’re going to have real good focus.”
Notes & quotes: Mika Zibanejad (concussion) skated the full practice as a spare defenseman and took some shifts on the power play, but did not make the trip to snowy Ottawa. “The team won’t skate in the morning, but I will here,” he said. Vigneault said Zibanejad will probably get some reps at center at Thursday’s practice . . . It appears that Henrik Lundqvist will start against Ottawa. In his last appearance against the Senators, on Nov. 19 at home, Lundqvist posted a 20-save shutout. Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner and Zibanejad (empty-netter) scored for the Blueshirts.