GREENBURGH, N.Y. — David Quinn believes the Rangers are an unfinished product. He also is adamant that they are a group showing signs of growth.
What he is unsure about is whether their recent play and tangible results will be enough to convince general manager Jeff Gorton to keep the 2019-20 edition intact at the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
“Those conversations don’t happen very often right now,” Quinn said after practice Wednesday at the MSG Training Facility, ahead of Thursday's game against the Islanders at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum. “This is all about the now and winning the hockey game tomorrow night.”
On the eve of the second of three games in nine days against their rivals, the Rangers (22-19-4) are seventh in the division and 12th in the conference. They currently are eight points behind wild-card teams Carolina and Philadelphia (the Flyers beat the Blues, 4-3, in overtime Wednesday night).
Quinn stressed he has seen improvement in his team in the last five games after a 4-3 loss to the Flames on Jan. 2. The Rangers have outscored their opponents 20-15 in winning three of those games.
“We realized this is the way we have to play not only individually but collectively,” Quinn said. “I thought we did it in spurts before Calgary, but it seems to be a little bit more of a mission for our guys, a little bit more of an approach from a nightly basis than it was earlier.”
And what is that approach?
“I think we have to be a puck pressure team,” Quinn said. “We have to make teams uncomfortable because we’re not an overly big team. And I think we have to keep teams out of their structure.”
Still, that’s the overarching vision for what Quinn wants his team to be. How would he analyze what they are today?
“We’re not where we need to be,” Quinn said. “But we’ve made some progress in that area.”
Notes & quotes: After the hourlong practice, Quinn announced Alexandar Georgiev will make his second straight start. Georgiev made 32 saves in Monday night’s 6-2 win over the Islanders at the Garden . . . Brendan Lemieux practiced for the first time since suffering a broken hand in a 5-3 win over the Hurricanes on Dec. 27. “He just got cleared,” Quinn said. “So, you know, day-to-day.” . . . Quinn also explained the rationale for Libor Hajek’s assignment to AHL Hartford Monday. “He’s missed a lot of hockey,” Quinn said. Hajek, 21, had five assists in 28 games this season, although he had missed 16 games from Dec. 6 through Jan. 9 with a sprained knee before returning for the 5-2 loss to the Blues last Saturday. “We just thought he wasn’t going to play much here [heading into] the [All-Star] break,” Quinn said. “[So] give him a chance to go down there and play meaningful games and get back into game mode.”