The phrase “give me a break” was not one that leaped to mind for the Rangers, not after having had three days off at Christmas and with the All-Star break ahead. No one was desperate for another hiatus. Still, they are not ungrateful about the five-day “bye week” that began Sunday. They’ll take it.
“I’m just going to spend some time with my family and some friends from Sweden. Just take these few days and relax and get away from the game,” Henrik Lundqvist said Saturday after one of the Rangers’ more rewarding victories of the season: They recovered from a 4-1 deficit and beat the NHL-leading Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-4, on the road.
“You know we’ve been playing a lot. Even though we had a Christmas break, it was a quick break. We’ve been playing more than most teams,” said Lundqvist, whose Rangers have played three more games than the Blue Jackets and are three points behind them. “Just try to take advantage of it, really get away from the game and relax. We have a big test right away when we get back.”
They will have plenty of time to think about — or not think about — a home game against the Maple Leafs on Friday night and a game in Montreal on Saturday night.
Alain Vigneault never has been a fan of the new wrinkle in the schedule, which gives every team four or five days off in January or February. It was negotiated between the league and players association before last season as a perk to the latter group in consideration for having accepted the three-on-three All-Star Game format.
Vigneault believes it makes a tight schedule this season (which was preceded by the World Cup) even more condensed. “I don’t know. I’m new to this. We’re used to the All-Star break, but to have two similar breaks in a short amount of time, we’ll find out what happens,’’ said Vigneault, who will put the time off to good use by visiting his parents in Canada. “I haven’t had one player tell me they’re a big fan of this. But it is what it is, and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Adam Clendening, who enabled Saturday night’s comeback by scoring his first two goals of the season, said, “It will be a lot sweeter now. I’m just going home to see my wife, dad and sister, relax and just get away from the city a bit. Slow things down.”
The Rangers can savor a run of five wins in six games and the knowledge that their 15 road wins are best in the league. It will be an exhilarating week off. “I’m going to Lake Placid with the family, show the kids some snow and ice,” said Michael Grabner, who scored the game-winner with 16.5 seconds left (and obviously made travel plans before he heard the weekend forecast). “Just get away a bit, clear the head and recover.”
They have the good memory of a stirring victory. “1-0 would have been better,” Lundqvist said with a laugh that suggested they will take it.