The Blueshirts will welcome back their most experienced player on Thursday when they take on the Wild in Minnesota.
Martin St. Louis, who’s been out of the lineup since Mar. 16 with a sprained MCL, will draw back in for the first time in eight games. The 39-year-old looks as though he’ll skate on a line with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes, and should have plenty of opportunity to shake the rust off prior to the playoffs — the Rangers have six games left in the regular season, including tomorrow’s game at Xcel and an intriguing final game of the year against possible first-round opponent Washington.
It’ll be important for St. Louis to work his way back into game form. This hasn’t been a banner year; while his 20 goals and 47 points are solid production, his 0.69 points-per-game average is his lowest since 2001-02. That said, he’ll still be a key cog of this Rangers team come playoff time, not only because he’s one of the few Stanley Cup winners on the roster, but also because he was a vital part of last year’s run, leading the team in goals (eight) while finishing second in points.
Byfuglien to have phone hearing for Miller cross-check
The cross-check, which went uncalled, didn’t force Miller from the contest — he continued taking shifts and assisted in Chris Kreider’s game-winning tally with less than four minutes remaining.
Per TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, Byfuglien’s hearing will be of the telephone variety, meaning any potential suspension length will be five games or fewer. Had the Department of Player Safety wanted a stiffer punishment, an in-person hearing would’ve been offered.
Jets in tough to make playoffs after ‘brutal’ loss to Rangers
It was the second straight painful loss for the Jets, who fell 4-3 to Chicago on Sunday on a goal by Jonathan Toews with just 31 seconds remaining, and it dealt a serious blow to Winnipeg’s chances of making the playoffs.
“This is brutal, to be honest,” said forward Mathieu Perreault, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s unacceptable, really, at this time of the season. We’ve just got to regroup and put it behind us because it’s going to do us no good to keep thinking about those two games.
“We’ve got to bear down, especially at the end of the games. It’s unacceptable.”
As we noted yesterday, the Jets had a comfortable playoff cushion coming out of the All-Star break. Tomorrow, they could be bumped out of the final wild-card spot if the Kings beat the Oilers at Staples Center. According to Sports Club Stats, their postseason chances have fallen below 50/50 to 48.6 percent.
It’s estimated the Jets will have to go around 3-2-0 in their final five games to get in. They have two home games remaining, versus Vancouver and Calgary, and three road contests left, in Minnesota, St. Louis and Colorado.
Winnipeg is now 13-12-4 since the All-Star break.
Official: Rangers prospect Skjei leaves Gophers, headed to AHL
Skjei, 21, was the 28th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and has spent the last three seasons in Minnesota. A former U.S. National Development Team member, Skjei is a big-bodied rearguard (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) that the Rangers were hoping would turn pro after the Gophers’ season ended last week with a NCAA regional semifinal defeat to Minnesota-Duluth.
Per the Post, Skjei could be eligible to join the Rangers for this year’s playoffs if he shows well enough in Hartford, and there does appear to be a potential spot up for grabs — Kevin Klein is still out injured, Matt Hunwick has struggled, and AHL farmhand Chris Summers recently made his Rangers debut in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Washington.
UPDATE: Terms of Skjei’s deal have been announced. He’s signed on an AHL amateur tryout (ATO) for this season, meaning he’s ineligible to join the Rangers for the postseason. His entry-level contract will kick in at the start of next season.
‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller
The Rangers did get revenge: A 3-2 victory that saw Chris Kreider burn Byfuglien with terrific speed for the winning goal, assisted by Miller, and Byfuglien penalized in the final minute for a slash, greatly hindering any chance Winnipeg had of a last-minute tying goal.
“Violent, deliberate. Could have broken his neck. It was one of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year,” said Vigneault, the Rangers head coach, as per Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun.
Jet's Dustin Byfuglien's crosscheck on JT Miller is being given extra examination by NHL Player Safety.