At a glance: The New York Rangers pick back up following the two-week Olympic break with a tough task in their return to Madison Square Garden, where they will host the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhwaks on Thursday. With 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers are in good shape for the playoffs as they sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Philadelphia Flyers, who play the San Jose Sharks Thursday, aren’t far behind though. The Flyers trail the Rangers by only one point heading into Thursday’s action with the two bitter rivals set to clash this weekend in Philly. Meanwhile, the Hawks are slugging it out with the St. Louis Blues for the Central Division title with the two clubs tied with 84 points.
Trade talk: With less than a week to go before the March 5 trade deadline, rumors and speculation are ramping up. Of course, the fodder includes Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Callahan’s camp and the Rangers remain at an impasse on a contract extension for the 28-year-old winger, making it appear increasingly likely that he gets dealt before next Wednesday. Recent reports have linked the Rangers to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, who reportedly requested a trade to New York prior to the Olympic break. Defenseman Dan Girardi is also a pending UFA and could be on the move.
Waiting game: Defenseman Marc Staal, who has been battling back spasms, will be a game-time decision. Staal participated in the team’s morning skate and is expected to play unless he suffers a setback.
Give Hank a break: Given Henrik Lundqvist’s busy schedule in Sochi -- he led Team Sweden to the gold-medal game though the Swedes lost to Canada -- backup netminder Cam Talbot gets the start vs. the Hawks Thursday night. According to coach Alain Vigneault, Lundqvist will be back in net starting Saturday in Philadelphia.
Not just yet: Derek Dorsett, who has been sidelined with a broken leg since January, will not make his return Thursday despite having practiced with the team on Wednesday. He’ll have to wait a few more days before Vigneault re-inserts him into the lineup. Recently-recalled J.T. Miller will play on a line with Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard with Mats Zuccarello sidelined with a hand injury.