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Rangers practice with 'full cast of characters' ahead of trip to Florida

Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers

Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers skates during the third period against the Ducks at Honda Center on November 1, 2018 in Anaheim, California.  Photo Credit: Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – With their next game not coming up until Saturday in Florida, practice Tuesday for the Rangers had a bit of a training camp feel to it. Coach David Quinn had his team doing some battle drills, and kept the team on the ice for a little longer than usual.

The other reason practice had a throwback look was that for the first time in a long time, the Rangers had nearly a full roster of healthy bodies available to skate. Not only were Mats Zuccarello and Vladislav Namestnikov, who missed last weekend’s trip to Ottawa and Montreal, practicing, but Pavel Buchnevich, who has been out three weeks with a broken thumb, and defenseman Adam McQuaid, who’s been out more than five weeks with a lower body injury, were on the ice as well.

“It’s nice to have a full cast of characters out there,’’ Quinn said.

According to Quinn, all of the injured players – except, perhaps, McQuaid – are on track to possibly return this weekend when the Rangers go to Florida for games against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Zuccarello has missed the past four games and 11 of the last 13 with a lingering groin injury and Namestnikov has missed three games with a concussion suffered when he took a hit from Ottawa defenseman Thomas Chabot near the end of the Rangers’ 4-2 home win over the Senators Nov. 26.

“He was coming full speed and I just stepped on the ice and couldn’t really go anywhere,’’ Namestnikov said of Chabot. “Things like that happen in hockey and you just have to kind of, deal with it and get better and get back out there.’’

McQuaid was injured when he crashed awkwardly against the boards after trying to hit Chicago forward Brandon Saad during the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks Oct. 25. Initially, he was listed as being day-to-day. But eventually he was reclassified as week-to-week.

“We just got further testing done and found out exactly what was going on,’’ said McQuaid, who was not allowed to disclose the actual injury. “It was a little more than we thought it was going to be – not worst-case scenario, but you’re hoping it’s not the case.’’

“It’s just a freak injury, and something that we thought was going to be short-term and unfortunately turned into long-term,’’ Quinn said of McQuaid. “And it was something that, there was a lot of uncertainty with it, and you just didn’t want to really put a timetable on it, because you didn’t want to put any pressure on the player for sure.’’

Whenever he is ready to come back, whether it is on the road trip or after that, McQuaid may find it a challenge to get back into the lineup. He had played eight of the Rangers’ first 10 games, but in the 18 games he has missed, Fredrik Claesson and Tony DeAngelo have stepped up and established themselves as mostly reliable defensemen.

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