Derick Brassard

Rangers’ Zuccarello to participate in charity hockey game

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There’s good news on the injury front for the New York Rangers.

Forward Mats Zuccarello, who suffered a brain contusion and scull fracture after taking a Ryan McDonagh shot to the head in Game 5 of the Rangers’ first round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is healthy enough to participate in a charity game in his native Norway.

Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin are also reportedly taking part in the game on June 19 according to the New York Post.

It’ll mark Zuccarello’s first game action of any kind since April 24.

The 27-year-old began skating with his teammates on May 18, but was never cleared for contact.

Zuccarello scored 15 goals and 49 points in 78 games during the 2014-15 season and added two assists in five playoff games.

His new four-year, $18 million contract begins next season.

Related: Rangers announce Staal, Girardi underwent successful ankle surgeries

Miller’s ‘attitude has been outstanding,’ says Brassard

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Just over a year ago, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault offered the following, candid assessment of J.T. Miller:

“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis. He needs more commitment. There needs to be more commitment from his part on the ice and off the ice, and until there is, he hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis.

“It’s part of any young player going through the process of being an NHL player. You’ve got to figure it out, and hopefully he will, and when he does, we’ll have a good player. And if he doesn’t figure it out, he’ll be a good minor-leaguer.”

Ouch, right?

Well, fast forward to the present, one day after Miller racked up four points in a huge win over the Lightning, and here’s what linemate Derick Brassard had to say about the 22-year-old:

“I think his attitude has been outstanding the past two weeks. He’s been competing really hard. I think he’s energized our line. I remember last game he was trying to push me and [Rick Nash] to be better and to make a difference. He’s a guy with a really good shot, he wins a lot of pucks. He’s a really strong guy, and we need him to be really good to be successful.

“Last night it was just I think he got rewarded with all the hard work he’s been doing the past couple weeks.”

It hasn’t been an easy road to the NHL for the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2011, and he’s still got some developing to do. But we all know how important it is for teams to get contributions from their young players, and with Mats Zuccarello out indefinitely, Miller has picked a great time to prove he can contribute.

So much for Rick Nash’s slump

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Hey, remember when everyone was burying New York Rangers winger Rick Nash?

OK, to be fair, his postseason struggles were starting to border on their weird. It’s not as if these were isolated incidents, as he’s now at 59 career playoff games (with No. 60 coming in Game 7 on Friday).

Whatever the case may be, the 30-year-old is firing on all cylinders all of a sudden. While Nash and the Rangers failed to score on Ben Bishop in Game 5, the power forward has otherwise been making up for lost time. Including last night’s four-point performance, seven of his 14 playoff points came in Games 4 and 6.

He really seems to be asserting himself overall, too, as he has five shots on goal in three straight games.

There’s a solid chance that Nash is just trying to supply standard answers when asked about his recent successes, yet it’s also plausible that he’s getting a dig or two in on his critics by chalking up much of his recent breaks to sticking with the gameplan (and playing stout defense).

That brings us to the chicken-and-the-egg argument regarding how much of his success comes from the red-hot work of linemates Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller.

All three forwards made some beautiful music together in Game 6, so it’s likely a collaborative effort. Brassard pegs Miller as the “energizer bunny” of the trio, which made for a fairly amusing interplay between the young forward and Pierre McGuire:

Much like Nash, Miller’s teammates have noticed his efforts even if it took some time for the results to really come, as Brassard noted to the New York Daily News.

“His attitude for the past two weeks, he’s been working really hard,” Brassard said. “I can remember the day when I was saying (J.T.) is really close to making a difference here and being on the board. And Rick was a beast.”

There’s also, uh, this.

A week ago, many believed that Nash’s confidence was shattered; now his line is being described as New York’s answer to “The Triplets.” (Hey, it’s not like there’s anything identical about Tampa Bay’s trio, right?)

Nash would be the first to note how quickly things can turn … but at the moment, he is silencing his critics.

Video: Lundqvist helps lead Rangers back to New York for Game 7

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An ideal start is what the New York Rangers got off to on Tuesday, in a game they needed to win, on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist.

Sure, the Rangers converted a pair of goals, including one of Derick Brassard’s three on the night, to take the lead. Those two goals came on seven shots, while the Tampa Bay Lightning, with a chance to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, fired 16 toward Lundqvist.

He made 28 saves through two periods, including this left-pad stop on Steven Stamkos.

Former Ranger Ryan Callahan was the only Tampa Bay player to get a puck by Lundqvist until the third period.

Tampa bay was in chase mode by the time they solved Lundqvist. The Rangers have, once again, forced a Game 7.

“It’s really the best feeling,” Lundqvist told the Toronto Sun.

“It’s a lot of adrenalin and pressure and you’re nervous going into these games. You have to enjoy it. Everything on the line again, playing in front of our fans, there is not a better feeling than to have a big game at home.”

 

Video: Miller starts Rangers scoring spree seconds after spectacular Bishop save

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J.T. Miller got it all started.

The 22-year-old Miller scored his first goal of the post-season — and first career Stanley Cup playoff goal — to give the New York Rangers a 3-1 lead early in the third period, seconds after Ben Bishop made an absolutely spectacular save. But Bishop couldn’t get back into position, and Miller buried the quick pass out front from Derick Brassard.

That was the first of five New York goals in the third period. The Rangers forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final with a 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.