ATLANTA - Vinny Prospal skated for the first time Thursday since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 28, and the signs are positive. The initial estimate was that the Rangers' second-leading scorer would be out for up to three weeks, but Prospal said he hopes to practice with the team Friday in Boston.
"I was very surprised," said Prospal, who missed his sixth game last night but skated for 35 to 40 minutes. "I thought I was just going out to test it, and it felt so good I asked to do laps."
Prospal, who has eight goals and 24 assists, is critical on the power play (0-for-3 last night), coach John Tortorella said. "Our top players don't fight hard enough,'' he said. "We certainly miss Vinny. He's one of the more intense guys in coming up with loose pucks on the power play."
Dallas forward Mike Ribeiro, who was accidentally struck in the throat by Chris Higgins' stick Wednesday, underwent a tracheotomy and still is in St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. Higgins found out about the seriousness of the injury to his former Montreal teammate Thursday morning.
"I feel awful and I'm gonna talk to him [Friday]," Higgins said. "Because of the game, I haven't had a chance to reach out. He was one of my closest friends in Montreal. I played on a line with him a little bit and really, really like the guy. It was just a freak play. My stick rode up his stick."
Rangers team physician and surgeon Andrew Feldman is chief of sports medicine at St. Vincent's.
Ales Kotalik, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen and Michael Del Zotto (first NHL attempt) failed in the shootout. Chad Johnson stopped Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov. Rich Peverley lost the puck in his attempt.