GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers came together twice on their practice ice Friday. Coach David Quinn wanted them to hear the same basic message loud and clear: Don’t look past Saturday night’s game at TD Garden in Boston and ahead to the nine days off before the next one.
“Everybody understands the timeline and where we’re at and what’s in front of us after tomorrow,” Quinn said after practice about the bye week combined with the All-Star break. “But for every second you think about what beach you’re going to be on or what hotel you’re going to be staying at or what cocktail you’re going to be drinking, you’re taking away from what our task is tomorrow.”
The Rangers are 11 points behind the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ve played better lately, winning two straight and three of four to get to 20-20-7, and Quinn said the Boston game is a big one.
“Momentum; getting over .500 again; clawing our way back into the playoff picture; living with this result for a long period of time,” he said. “So there’s a lot of reasons why it’s a big game.”
But it’s natural to look ahead to the break.
“Definitely human nature to look ahead,” Brady Skjei said. “But I think we have a good group of guys here who will really focus and bear down . . . Three wins in a row going into a nine-day break sounds pretty good to me.”
The Bruins, 27-16-5 and third in the Atlantic Division, will have to contend with the Rangers’ red-hot first line. Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello have teamed for 13 points in the last two games and 19 in the last four, including nine goals. As Zibanejad put it, “We’re playing fun hockey right now.”
Quinn used to have fun cheering for the Bruins. The Rhode Island native played defense for Boston University in the 1980s, spent 2004-09 there as associate head coach and was the head coach from 2013-18. He also was an assistant at Northeastern for two seasons in the 1990s.
“Obviously, for me personally, going to school there and coaching in Boston and coaching so many games at the Garden, it will definitely mean a lot more,” Quinn said.
So how many tickets is he leaving? “I got out of the ticket business,” he said. “They can watch it on MSG or NESN.”
Notes & quotes: Zuccarello, Jesper Fast and Marc Staal didn’t practice, but Quinn said it was “a maintenance day” for them . . . Goalie Alexandar Georgiev was sent to Hartford and Marek Mazanec was recalled.