Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final could be a good news/bad news one for the New York Rangers.
First the good news. Following practice at Madison Square Garden on Saturday morning, Rangers forward Derick Brassard said he’s good to go and will play.
Brassard has been out of action since early in Game 1 against Montreal after he took a big hit from Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver. Brassard left that game immediately and has been out of action since.
The bad news isn’t too surprising. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said it’s unlikely forward Derek Stepan plays in Game 4 after he was injured on a late hit by Habs forward Brandon Prust.
Stepan broke his jaw on the hit and Vigneault said he missed today’s practice in the hospital recovering from surgery. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Stepan needed a plate inserted to stabilize his jaw.
Getting Brassard back with Stepan likely out is a turn of good news for New York as they were looking at the possibility of being without two of their top three pivots in Game 4. Brassard is likely set to return to his line with Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello. Dominic Moore may have to take Stepan’s spot on the top line between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.