Rangers getting healthy: Prospal set to make season debut, Dubinsky and Christensen close too

The Rangers offense this year hasn’t been something to really write home about. They’ve had fits of poor scoring, Marian Gaborik has struggled to seize the day as the team’s best goal scorer, and they’ve got a host of key missing pieces to their lineup. They’re still doing well in winning despite all of that and things may just be getting better sooner.

Vinny Prospal has missed the entire season to this point with a right knee injury but now he’s finally healthy and has been cleared to play. Thursday against the Devils figures to be his first game back and for the Rangers, they’re hoping his return can provide the spark that Gaborik has been missing all season long. Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen are also very close to rejoining the Rangers lineup as well. All of a sudden the Rangers don’t look so thin anymore.

Gaborik’s goal problems this year have been apparent as through 38 games he’s got just 16 goals scored. After scoring 42 goals last year to lead the team in scoring, getting that same 86-point production this year would do the Rangers a lot of good. Instead, Gaborik is second on the team in goals and points to injured forward Brandon Dubinsky. No offense to Dubinsky who is having a fine season, but Gaborik is supposed to be an elite goal scorer and capable of leading a team.

If Prospal’s return can spark Gaborik it’ll make a world of difference in how the Rangers positioning for the playoffs can get hashed out. There’s no real pressure on Prospal upon returning since the team is saddled with injuries to Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan as well but what he can do to help Gaborik could be huge.

Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Morris Lukowich #12 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni moves the puck in front Steve Staios #24 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.

With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.

  • Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
  • The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
  • No doubt about it, the futures of both franchises will be on display, from Connor McDavid to Patrik Laine.
  • The league’s PR department tweeted out some silly facts: 425 lbs. of cheese curds “will top poutine” during the eventĀ and 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles) of hot dogs and “smokies” will be consumed.

(Imagines one enormous cheese dog.)

Now that you have important food facts in mind, here are a few fun photos as promised.

Should be a great time.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here is a recap of Saturday’s wonderful alumni game:

Coyotes consider Mike Smith (lower body) week-to-week

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The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.

While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.

(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)

Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.

As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.

Report: Rangers expect Dan Girardi back on Sunday

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in action in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers will have defenseman Dan Girardi back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

If that holds true, Rosen reports that Girardi will replaceĀ Adam Clendening in the Rangers lineup.

The Rangers are 3-2-0 to start the season without Girardi, including a nice 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

For plenty of Rangers fans, this is great news, especially since New York could probably use some fresh legs on a back-to-back. He hasn’t played so far this season thanks to a groin injury.

More than a few people wonder if the former All-Star is actually a hindrance to his team, however, so expect some jokes here and there.

These two tweets from earlier this season do a decent job of summarizing the dichotomy:

/Awkward laugh

Panthers’ Harper made a childhood dream come true last night

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 22: Shane Harper #38 celebrates his third period goal with Gregg McKegg #41 of the Florida Panthers against the Colorado Avalanche at the BB&T Center on October 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Avalanche 5-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

“Who is Shane Harper?”

Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.

Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:

Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.

So, who is Shane Harper?

For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.

His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.

You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone:

He was modest there, but acknowledged that even playing in the NHL was a dream come true, so scoring a goal must have been even better.