RALEIGH, N.C. — With Derek Stepan goal-less in 22 games, Kevin Hayes with one goal in 11 and Mika Zibanejad with two in 21 games, Alain Vig neault made the most obvious statement before Thursday night’s game against the Hurricanes: “We need some plays from our centermen.”
Zibanejad “is competing harder,” Vigneault said. “He’s got to utilize his assets, his speed and skill with the puck.”
And he did. Zibanejad scored two power-play goals in the second period Thursday night.
“Stepan right now has got to come in and see every game as a new opportunity,” Vigneault said. “You can’t carry the burden of 20-something games when you come to the rink. He’s got to move his feet and make plays when the opportunity is there.”
Lundqvist, Nash out
Six regulars sat with injuries. Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash did not face the Hurricanes to wrap up the three-game road trip.
Lundqvist (lower body) and Nash (upper body) are day-to-day, Vig neault said. Lundqvist tweaked something against the Panthers on Tuesday night. Nash “has been carrying this upper-body issue and it’s just too painful today,” Vig neault said.
The unable-to-play roster already included four other Rangers.
Winger Michael Grabner missed his fifth straight game (hip/oblique) after he wasn’t ready after the morning skate, Vigneault said. Defensemen Dan Girardi (ankle) and Kevin Klein (back) and winger Jesper Fast (shoulder) aren’t on the trip.
Brandon Halverson was summoned from Greenville, South Carolina, of the ECHL to back up goalie Antti Raanta. Halverson hadn’t arrived in time for the morning skate, so assistant coach Darryl Williams borrowed some of Lundqvist’s equipment to man one crease while the Swede watched with a smile from behind the glass. Needless to say, a lot of pucks went by. “Hey, we scored on the power play,” Brandon Pirri said.