GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was Blueshirts vs. white shirts Thursday on the MSG Training Center ice, sometimes five-on-five, sometimes five-on-four, all times working toward a rebound from a bad night in Pittsburgh and a fine finale Friday night before their mandatory Christmas break.
If any team needs a three-day break, it’s the Rangers.
When they face off against Minnesota at the Garden on Friday night, it will mark their 10th game in 18 days and 36th overall. The Rangers “might have been a little bit tired,” in the words of rookie left wing Jimmy Vesey, when they put Antti Raanta in a 47-shot shooting gallery and fell to the Penguins, 7-2, on Tuesday night.
“We’ve been talking for a while about getting to this game here, and then we’ve got three days to recover and re-energize,” coach Alain Vig neault said.
The Rangers, who are tied with Pittsburgh with 47 points, are one point behind Columbus for the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division leads, and one point behind the Blue Jackets and Chicago for the NHL lead. Entering Thursday, they were tied for the NHL lead in games played.
“Rest is a weapon,” left wing Chris Kreider said. “So a couple of days off just to get refreshed and get an opportunity to get guys healthy, that’s important for us.”
First they would like to bounce back and end well. “You don’t want to be stuck in a negative atmosphere,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start in goal. “It would be nice to end on a high note.”
The trick is to not be looking ahead to their mini-vacation during the last night of work, especially with the Wild going wild. Minnesota has won nine straight games.
“The veteran guys need to make sure that everyone in that room is ready to play and ready to execute and perform,” Vigneault said.
The top five teams in the Metropolitan Division are six or fewer points from No. 1 in the league, so they don’t have any margin for error.
Vigneault ideally would like to rest defenseman Dan Girardi from time to time, but that’s happened only once.
“Right now, in my ideal world, in my division, it is crazy,” he said. “Just look. Nobody’s losing. So this resting thing, everybody’s trying to get in. You’ve got to play . . . what you feel is your best lineup.”
There has been a power outage on the power play: 0-for-10 in the last five games. So the Rangers worked on that.
“You definitely want to have your power play clicking as the year goes on, especially into the playoffs,” Vesey said. “It makes teams a little more wary of taking penalties against you.”
Notes & quotes: Mika Zibanejad has shed his boot and crutches after breaking his left leg Nov. 20, but the center said he’s “still only halfway there.” Vigneault said, “He’s on schedule.” The projected return is in the mid-January range . . . Vigneault got a look at Adam Clendening on the power play but said he isn’t sure if he will insert the seldom-used defenseman into the lineup.