Reinforcements are on the way for the Rangers, who remain two points out of a playoff spot with four games left in the regular season.
Right wing Ryan Callahan, wearing a brace on his right knee, practiced with the team for the first time in 10 days on a line with Chris Drury and Aaron Voros and alternated with AHL callup Dale Weise. Whether Callahan can play against the Sabres tonight in Buffalo, not far from his hometown of Rochester, is to be determined this morning.
“If Cally can play, he’s playing,” Tortorella said of the recent U.S. Olympian. “We miss him on the bench. I have him in so many situations. We didn’t expect that (Callahan skating) when he came in this morning. He’s got a mental toughness about him that is second to none. I really believe in that. I think you can will yourself to get better quicker, that’s what that guy’s about.”
After the test run, Callahan, who had 19 goals and 18 assists when he injured his knee in Boston on March 21 and re-aggravated it four days later against rhe Devils, declared that his knee felt “really good…Right now, it’s just getting to see how it responds. It’s still day by day. I wasn’t ready to skate on my own in Florida (where the Rangers spent Wednesday through Saturday). Now it’s crunch time. I don’t have time to skate on my own.” Watching from the stands for the last four games as his club went 3-0-1, Callahan said the team had played with “desperation we didn’t have before.”
Center Brian Boyle, who will miss his sixth straight game with a left ankle sprain, did skate on his own for the first time since March 23. He called the spin was “a first step” and believed he was a few days away from returning.
The other new skater yesterday was Weise, 21, who, at 6-2, replaces 5-8 Corey Locke, who was re-assigned to Hartford after appearing in three games.
“He’s a bigger body,” said Tortorella. “I get concerned about his (Locke’s) size in these type of games.” It’s also a matter of positioning; Locke is a center, and Drury was moved to wing. “I’d like to get Dru back in the middle of the ice,” said Tortorella.
Drury was nominated for the Masterton Trophy in a vote by the New York Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The annual award honors dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship. Drury, 33, the Rangers captain who also played for the U.S. in Vancouver, missed five games in November with a concussion, but has played every one since. The veteran has been shifted between center and wing, and has excelled in shot-blocking and on the penalty kill. He has 13 goals and 18 assists in his third season with the team...The Good Guy Award will be announced tomorrow...