New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello

Rangers' confidence gets another boost

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2

NEW YORK -- It wasn't the trade for Keith Yandle that convinced the New York Rangers they're good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

"I thought that before," defenseman Marc Staal said Monday night. "We're a very confident group. That was our expectation anyway."

It was then. It is now. And Monday's 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators, who came to Madison Square Garden with the most points in the NHL, certainly did nothing to change it.

In fact, for a management team that showed faith in this group of players and had a win-now approach at Monday's trade deadline, the Rangers' performance against the Predators a few hours after the deadline passed had to be a welcome sight.

"I thought, for our team, that was one of our more complete games in a while," coach Alain Vigneault said.

The Rangers have been winning regularly, with eight victories and a shootout loss in their last 10 games entering Monday. But not all of those wins were impressive.

This one was.

The Rangers were solid defensively, created plenty of scoring chances for themselves and got big saves from Cam Talbot when they needed them. They played with belief, or perhaps with some relief that was a natural reaction to the trade deadline passing.

"Every year, it doesn't matter what team you're on, the few days before [the deadline] you're thinking about it," Staal said. "When it's over, you get excited about the group you have in your dressing room, that you get to go to the end of the season and to the playoffs with."

The Rangers had reason to be doubly excited, first because all the key players were staying -- including Mats Zuccarello, whose name was floated in trade talk before he signed a four-year extension on Monday -- and also because the team added Yandle in a big Sunday trade with Arizona.

Yandle saw more ice time than any other Ranger in the first two periods Monday, and while it wasn't a perfect debut, Vigneault pronounced himself satisfied.

Zuccarello, meanwhile, had a strong game that included the first assist on each of the Rangers' first two goals.

"We need him to be on top of his game," Vigneault said. "Hopefully, his mind is clear."

It looked like it Monday, and it sounded like it afterward. Zuccarello took less money than he was asking for (he got $18 million for four years), but he didn't sound as if he had any regrets.

"I want to try to win with this team," he said.

It's a long way to the end of the regular season, let alone to the Stanley Cup finals. But what the Rangers did before Monday's deadline and in the game that followed were more proof that this team believes -- and has reason to believe -- it can get back there.

"We got to the rink [Monday] with a bit of a different vibe," Staal said.

The deadline moves -- and the ones that weren't made -- no doubt had something to do with that. Vigneault believed that the challenge of playing the Predators may have played a part too.

"It was a good test for us to see where we are against the No. 1 team in the NHL at this point," he said. "The guys knew they had a real strong challenge."

There will be bigger challenges ahead, but the Rangers fully believe they can handle them. They believed that before Sunday, and before Monday.

If anything, they believe it more now.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Predators 1

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
NEW YORK -- Alain Vigneault said the New York Rangers' activity at the NHL trade deadline should send a message to the players that management believes this group could win the Stanley Cup.

Monday night's 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators did nothing to change that thought.

The Predators came to Madison Square Garden with the most points in the league. They left with a loss to a Rangers team that moved back into a first-place tie with the New York Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division.

Defenseman Keith Yandle, acquired in Sunday's big trade with Arizona, played his first game with the Rangers. Center James Sheppard, also acquired Sunday, was scratched to allow him some rest after a heavy travel schedule.

But what stood out most is the way the Rangers who were already here before Sunday performed. Mats Zuccarello contributed on the first two goals, the Rangers kept the Predators tied up and goalie Cam Talbot had another strong game in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist.

More to like: Zuccarello, whose four-year contract extension was announced as official just before game time, had a hand in both of the Rangers' first two goals. On the first, Derick Brassard's cross-ice pass was a little behind Zuccarello, but Zuccarello was able to get a stick on it. He perfectly set up Marc Staal, who beat Pekka Rinne for his fifth goal of the season to make it 1-0 at 6:36 of the first period.

Zuccarello's contribution to the second goal was even better, a perfect pass to set up a Chris Kreider shot and a 2-0 Rangers lead at 4:14 of the second period.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather suggested Monday that he never really intended to trade Zuccarello, even as he admitted floating the 27-year-old wing's name on the trade market during negotiations for the new contract.

"I like everything about him -- his tenacity, his hard work, the way he plays, the chemistry he brings," Sather said.

First impressions: No one is going to judge the Keith Yandle trade on one game, but everyone was watching the newest Ranger Monday night. Yandle had the most playing time of any Ranger through the first two periods, and there were some things to like and some not to like. He contributed to some of the Rangers' best offensive stretches of the night, but was also partly at fault for the goal that cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1 late in the second period.

Cam gets credit: Sather didn't acquire a goalie before Monday's deadline, a sure sign that the Rangers believe Lundqvist will return healthy (although they still won't provide any details on when that will be). But Sather said it also was a vote of confidence in Talbot, who has earned that with the way he has played since Lundqvist was hurt.

What's next: The Rangers play their next five games on the road, beginning with a Wednesday night matchup in Detroit against the Red Wings.

Meet the Blueshirts: Mats Zuccarello

June, 3, 2014
Mats ZuccarelloScott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images
Position: RW
Number: 36
Age: 26
Born: Oslo, Norway
Height: 5-7
Weight: 179
How Acquired: Originally signed with the Rangers as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2010. Recently signed a one-year, $1.15 million contract with New York on March 28, 2013.

In case you didn’t know ...

• Zuccarello had a breakout season in 2013-14, establishing career-highs for goals (19), assists (40) and points (59) during the regular season. He has notched 11 points in the playoffs, though he’s gone scoreless in his last five games.

• Zuccarello figured his NHL career was over after two unsuccessful seasons with the Rangers. But it was during his time in the KHL -- playing with Evgeni Malkin and being coached by Paul Maurice -- during the lockout that he began to realize his potential, according to a profile in Newsday. He then returned to the Rangers, and had a strong finish at the end of last season into the playoffs.

• Zuccarello’s line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot proved to be the team’s most productive trio in the first two rounds.

Click here for the rest of our series.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Penguins 1

May, 9, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- Rallying behind Martin St. Louis, who played Friday night after the death of his mother just one day prior, the New York Rangers avoided elimination with a decisive 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5.

Derick Brassard tallied two goals, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was razor-sharp, the power-play scored (twice!) and the Rangers played with the type of urgency and desperation that allowed them to force a Game 6 on Sunday back home at Madison Square Garden with the series now at 3-2.

Penguins star Evgeni Malkin did his best to put the team on his shoulders and single-handedly force Pittsburgh back into the game -- he charged right through two Rangers defenders for a highlight-reel goal in the second period -- but the Rangers were able to squash the Penguins' surges at key points throughout the match.
And you can bet the Marc-Andre Fleury questions will resurface after he gave up four goals Friday despite the 29-year-old netminder posting back-to-back shutouts earlier in the series.

Big game for Brassard: Save for an unwise slashing penalty on Malkin at the end of the second period, Brassard delivered a fine performance Friday night with a pair of goals. Backhanding the puck past Fleury in the first frame, Brassard allowed the Rangers to reclaim a two-goal lead in the second period. Production from Brassard’s line, which includes Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello has been huge for the Blueshirts, particularly given the struggles of the team’s star players Rick Nash, Brad Richards and St. Louis.

Slump snapped: The Rangers entered Friday’s action without a goal in their past 36 attempts, when a slump that spanned nine games was halted by Chris Kreider, who buried a rebound for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 9:36 in the first period. Kreider, who returned to the Rangers lineup in Game 4 after missing 19 games with a fractured left hand, showed why his net-front presence was so sorely missed during his absence. Before his goal, he made a nice diving play on the man advantage, a sputtering unit that has at least seemed a lot less stagnant with Kreider in the mix. The Rangers went on to score another man-up marker in the second period, with defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s first goal of the playoffs, a slap shot from the right point. McDonagh has been uncharacteristically disappointing this series but was able to chip in offensively with a big goal Friday night.

Tremendous trio tallies twice in Game 1

May, 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- After the New York Rangers’ 3-2 overtime victory to take Game 1 in the team’s second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the impact of the team’s most productive line for much of this season -- the trio of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.

Vigneault said they have been the team’s most consistent trio since Christmas, that they have forged a palpable chemistry, that they were strong on the puck, aggressive on the forecheck ...


[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Gregory Shamus/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Rangers celebrate after winning Game 1 in overtime.
“And they scored two [goals] in overtime,” Vigneault quipped as a nod to a wacky bang-bang sequence that ended the game.

Indeed, it was Brassard, whose shot that clanged off the crossbar and in (even though play continued), who was rightfully credited with the game winner. But even after signaling to officials that the puck went in, there was no whistle. With a scramble in front of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease, Brassard connected with Pouliot for a goal that ended the game and rendered a restless crowd at CONSOL Energy Center silent.

Pouliot didn’t even find out that Brassard was credited with the deciding goal until his postgame television interview, but he wasn’t perturbed in the least. Pouliot had already notched his third goal of the playoffs earlier in the game; he didn’t care who ended up on the score sheet, just as long as the Rangers left the building with a win.

“It’s huge, especially in Pittsburgh. They’re such a great team,” Pouliot said. “You come in Pitt, the crowd’s behind them. You just played 48 hours ago. You never know what’s going to happen, but we scored two goals right away, kind of put them on their heels, then did the job in overtime.”

It was Pouliot’s marker that jump-started a terrific, textbook opening frame. He scored on a rather harmless wrist shot, but it was enough to make Fleury appear unhinged and the Rangers took notice. Later in the period, veteran center Brad Richards capitalized on a defensive miscue, putting one past Fleury while all alone in front.

But the game changed dramatically in the second period, as the Rangers failed to keep pushing and instead allowed the Penguins to climb right back into the match, building some equity with their disgruntled fan base and knotting the score 2-2 heading into the third period.

It might have been a necessary reminder to the Rangers that no lead is safe during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s a lesson of which the Penguins are already keenly aware after blowing a pair of two-goal leads and dropping games as a result in their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’d be nice not to take a period off, but we’re fortunate that tonight we didn’t get hurt by it,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “We ended up getting a win, but if we can take our first period and play 60 minutes like that I think we’ll be all right.”

The Rangers have done nothing more than win one game, but they have to take confidence in a few different things from Friday’s game. One, they did not play their best hockey and yet they still beat a Penguins team that boasts two of the league’s resident superstars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Two, they were able to contain both players, holding both without a goal and Crosby off the score sheet entirely (Malkin finished with an assist on James Neal’s game-tying goal in the second period). Crosby finished the game with a minus-3 rating as well Lastly, their regular-season road prowess -- they set a franchise record with 25 wins away from home this year -- was no fluke. They can win games in hostile territory.

“We’re hungry for more wins,” said Brassard, whose winner was his first goal of the 2014 playoffs. “I think it’s going to be good for our confidence, just to show us that we can beat those guys.”

For as much as Brassard’s line has been critical to the team’s well-rounded scoring attack, the second defensive pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman is also emerging as an unsung element key to the Rangers' success.

Though top-pair blueliners Ryan McDonagh and Girardi usually shoulder the yeoman’s work against opponents’ top lines, Staal and Stralman were vital in helping containing the likes of both the Crosby and the Malkin lines as well.

For his stout performance in 26:03 of ice time Friday night, Staal was awarded with the team’s MVP trophy hat.

“Just the way he keeps the game so simple,” Pouliot mused. “It’s something we talk about all the time. Marc will have that big block when we need a block or make that pass. He’s always going to be in position to help us. He’s got the longest stick on the team. It’s a pain to the opponent and he does a great job with that. I had to go with Marc because sometimes you don’t recognize that kind of play but us, us we do.”

Staal's and Stralman’s game has been so strong that it has enabled Vigneault to deploy his defensive pairings with confidence that the top four can compete against anything their opponents can throw at them.

“We’ve got two pretty good duos that we’re not afraid to match up against any line,” Vigneault said. “So it makes it easier on the road to get the match-ups you’re looking for.”

That bodes well for the Rangers, as does the fact that some of their top performers still have yet to reach optimal levels during the playoffs. Rick Nash has not scored yet. His entire line is capable of providing more Even goaltender Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t stolen a game.

But Lundqvist finished the night with 34 saves and made some superb stops to preserve the tie en route to recording his 35th playoff victory.

It doesn't matter who gets the credit. As long as the Rangers are winning, that's good enough.

Rangers win Game 7, advance to face Pens

April, 30, 2014
NEW YORK -- Of course this series between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers was going to go to Game 7. And of course this was going to be a winner-take-all match that went right down to the wire, with both teams’ respective seasons hanging in the balance as time wound down in the third period.

It was a final frame that seemed interminable for the Rangers, desperately clutching a one-goal lead and feeling each tick of the clock as if it were an eternity.

But at the end of regulation, the better team was left standing as the Rangers held on to knock off the Flyers 2-1 in Game 7 to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, where they will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

[+] EnlargeNew York Rangers
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsThe Rangers prevailed in yet another Game 7 at the Garden.
“It’s a sense of relief,” said winger Rick Nash, whose goal drought continued Wednesday night despite a team-leading five shots. “You have two chances at it and we couldn’t get the job done on the first chance, so it’s a moment of relief and excitement.”

Nash is of course referring to the Rangers' inability to close out the series Tuesday night in Game 6 and that nagging stat that the Rangers just can’t quite seem to shake: 12 consecutive losses when leading in a playoff series.

But the Blueshirts began anew Wednesday night in a game that provided the type of pace and intensity that the series otherwise lacked. Both teams came out strong, but it was Flyers goaltender Steve Mason who was dazzling from the drop of the puck.

Mason was absolutely sensational in his third start of the series for the Flyers, even when the Rangers began to surge in the second period. It was former Flyer Daniel Carcillo who first got the Rangers on the board against his old club, notching his second goal of the series after replacing J.T. Miller in the lineup following a pair of games as a healthy scratch. Mats Zuccarello enabled Carcillo with a jaw-dropping backhanded pass laced through two different Flyers defenders.

Still, with the Flyers down 1-0 Mason was doing his part to steal the show. But despite several sequences of stunning saves from the 25-year-old netminder, who missed the first three games of the series with what he has subsequently revealed to be a concussion, the Rangers solved him again with Benoit Pouliot’s marker later in the period.

It wasn’t the stars who ended up on the score sheet for the Rangers, but that was only fitting for a team that has received well-balanced contributions from throughout the lineup all season long.

“That’s the great thing about our team. Different guys have been different heroes all through the year or throughout this series, as you can see. Every night, every win we’ve had we’ve had different guys step up,” said veteran center Brad Richards. “That’s a good sign for our team.”

As is the continued steadiness of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was rock solid when necessary as the Flyers came buzzing back in the third period, a clear statement that they would not go quietly.

Rookie forward Jason Akeson cut the Rangers’ lead in half, 2-1, and New York played much of the period on its heels, but Lundqvist was composed between the pipes as the Rangers white-knuckled their way to the buzzer.

Lundqvist did not have the same sort of outstanding performance as Mason, who was saddled with the loss despite making 31 saves, but he recorded a win and that was the only important statistic that means anything to the former Vezina Trophy winner.

"We knew they were going to push in the third and they came pretty hard, but the puck management was really good," said Lundqvist. "it's just exciting, that last minute is so intense and you're nervous but at the same time you just want to see what's going to happen next. The final second, that's probably the best feeling."

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Lundqvist has tied an NHL record with four consecutive Game 7 wins, tying Cam Ward, Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy.

“It’s almost a thing that’s out of your mind,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who finished the game with a team-leading 24:28 in ice time. “You never have to think what will be back there because you know he’s going to be there.”

Now, the Rangers can finally put the Flyers out of their mind, too, after seesawing with their division rivals all series. There will be at least one night to relish a series victory before planning and preparation begin for Round 2.

“A good sense of accomplishment,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said when asked about the feeling in the room following the win. “But we know there’s a long road [ahead]; we’re trying to accomplish something even bigger.”

That begins, of course, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who knocked off the Columbus Blue Jackets in a bitter, physical and wildly entertaining first-round series that ended with a decisive Pens victory Monday night. While the Penguins have had a few days to rest while awaiting their second-round foe, the Rangers won’t have that same luxury of recovery.

Instead, they’ll make a quick turnaround, jumping on a plane to Pittsburgh on Thursday to prepare for what will be their third game in four nights.

That may not be the worst thing, however.

“No thinking. Right back to work. Right back to what we’re doing here,” Richards said. “Now you’re in it and it’s fun, so why not start right away?”

Rangers need more traffic, desperation

April, 21, 2014
NEW YORK -- As of Monday afternoon, the New York Rangers know who they will be facing in net for the Philadelphia Flyers when the two teams square off in Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Ray Emery
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFlyer's backup goalie Ray Emery
With backup netminder Ray Emery back between the pipes for their divisional rivals, they know what they have to do to make his life more difficult: Crash the net, get in front, and create traffic.

“Talking about net presence and driving to the net, those are all facets that are very important to good offensive hockey,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “And that’s an area that we need to continue to do better.”

The Rangers were able to solve Emery in the first period on Sunday, tallying twice as a result of quick puck movement and some expert passing in lanes that, thanks to a disjointed Philadelphia defensive effort, went largely unobstructed.

But with the Flyers down 2-0, the team made some adjustments to its game and Emery seemed to as well. He appeared more prepared to stop those back-door plays and ready for any type of movement that would take him post to post.

He made a couple of spectacular stops on both Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello as the Flyers charged back for four unanswered goals.

The Rangers have to make things tough in his crease and take away his ability to see shots coming through if they want to rattle his confidence. Especially now with the Flyers hosting a pair of games on home ice at Wells Fargo Center.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a mindset -- different things happen in a game – but we need to make sure that if the opportunity is there we need to be there,” said forward Brian Boyle.

It would help to see their power-play perform more consistently than Sunday afternoon, when the team was limited to just one man-up marker on six attempts. That said, the group still has high confidence that has shown night and day improvement from last year’s maligned unit that was more of a liability than anything.

“We’ve got three power-play goals in two games. I know it could have won us the game last night, but when you put it into perspective, if you’d said you had three power-play goals in first two games, you’d probably take it,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who mans the right point on the top unit. “We’re going to keep working on it.”

More important, Richards said, is the team’s battle level heading into Game 3.

“They probably were a little more desperate than we were,” Richards said of Sunday’s effort “Intensity level and the level of play has to keep going up. And it has to jump up a lot more from each game than it did from game 1 and to for us. That’s our main focus. We have to be better.”

W2W4: Rangers vs. Hurricanes

April, 8, 2014
At a glance: The New York Rangers have already clinched a playoff spot -- well, technically, Karri Ramo and the Calgary Flames took care of that with their 1-0 blanking of the New Jersey Devils on Monday night -- but they don’t plan on letting up in the final three games of the regular season. Considering that home-ice advantage is still up for grabs in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers aim to snatch another two points beginning Tuesday night, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden.

Last time around: In the two clubs’ last meeting, the Rangers had one of their most embarrassing performances of the season. Outworked from start to finish against the Hurricanes, the Rangers surrendered two points in a 3-1 loss without putting up much of a fight. The team expressed both disappointment and disgust with the lackluster effort. Though the Canes are out of the playoff hunt, the Rangers seemed to have learned a valuable lesson: not to overlook any team on any given night.

Back on track: Although the team has won seven of its last 10 games, the Rangers have dropped two straight -- not the type of hiccup they want as they gear up for the playoffs. Coming off losses to Colorado and Ottawa, the Rangers aim to reassert themselves as a team that can do damage in an Eastern Conference that, with the exception of the dominant Boston Bruins, seems to be wide open.

Hitting the mark: Even though he missed a significant chunk of time with a hand injury sustained during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Mats Zuccarello is having a career year for the Rangers. The diminutive Norwegian winger, who tallied twice in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Senators, needs just one more goal to record the first 20-goal season of his NHL career. He has already eclipsed his previous career highs with 19 goals and 57 points.

Help on the horizon: In what may have been the most encouraging news of the day for the Rangers, top defenseman Ryan McDonagh participated in the team’s optional morning skate Tuesday -- a good sign for his potential availability in the playoffs. McDonagh, who is sidelined with a day-to-day injury to his left shoulder, may rejoin the Rangers for practice as soon as Wednesday. Though coach Alain Vigneault is undecided whether he will play McDonagh before the postseason, he sounded optimistic about the 24-year-old blueliner’s progress. Chris Kreider (hand) also skated Tuesday morning, but did not do any stickhandling with his injured left hand still in a cast. Kreider is out indefinitely.

First period costs Rangers clinching chance

April, 5, 2014
The New York Rangers didn’t even need a win to lock up a playoff spot. All they needed was just one measly point to secure their entry to the postseason race. And they had the chance to nail that down at home with a game against the floundering Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

But a lackluster first-period performance, one that elicited a round of boos from the Garden faithful, cost them that point as they fell 3-2 to a feisty Sens squad seeking to atone an embarrassing implosion against the Montreal Canadiens just one night prior.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist, Chris Phillips
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsFirst-period mistakes cost the Rangers a chance at clinching a playoff berth.
Instead of dictating the pace and taking their game to the Sens, the Rangers got behind an Ottawa team whose playoff hopes are all but mathematically extinguished. The result?

They left the ice after the first period trailing 2-0.

“It felt like they were a little bit more on top of things in the first period. We came back strong in the second and third, but the first period cost us,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said.

Both Ottawa’s goals exposed some of the team’s defensive shortcomings in their second game without top blueliner Ryan McDonagh, but the Rangers were not without opportunities on the other end.

Benoit Pouliot was denied of two glorious point-blank chances by Sens goaltender Robin Lehner. Lehner stuffed Carl Hagelin at the right post later in the period to hold the Blueshirts scoreless through the first 20 minutes of play.

"We had some chances and, if we score early, I think it’s a different game,” said coach Alain Vigneault. "I wasn’t crazy about trading chances against a team like that.”

The Rangers recovered from their poor start -- Mats Zuccarello tallied twice to pull the Rangers within a goal -- but they couldn’t finish the job to wrap up a playoff guarantee.

“It’s very frustrating. I think the first period hurt us,” said veteran center and alternate captain Brad Richards. “We made a push, but [we] spotted them too early.”

The Rangers have three games remaining in the regular-season schedule and another pair at home before heading up to Montreal for the season finale. Earning a playoff spot is the next feat to accomplish, but the Rangers have their sights set beyond that as well.

The team currently resides in second place in the Metropolitan Division standings, four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers though the Flyers have two games in hand. The two rival squads will be battling down the stretch to gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“I hope our mindset is not to clinch,” Lundqvist said. “It’s about getting the home advantage. That’s my mindset going into this. I’d rather look ahead than behind me, but we’ll take the next game and focus on that. Every game now is going to be tough. We are playing teams that are out of it, so we have to respect that.”

Zuccarello a game-time decision vs. Canes

March, 6, 2014
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello is a game-time decision for Friday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Zuccarrello has been out since suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left hand on Feb. 16 while he was playing for his native Norway in the Olympics.

He was to see the doctor later on Thursday before a decision on his status would be made, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

“I feel better,” Zucarrello said. “I feel more comfortable with the puck and in certain situations out there. I feel good.”

Zuccarello, 26, has recorded 15 goals and 28 assists for the Rangers this season.

Henrik Lundqvist will start against the Hurricanes, Vigneault said.

• Vigneault said Dan Girardi will continue to be a third alternate captain for the remainder of the season, and the coach will figure out who his team captain will be in place of Ryan Callahan when the season ends.

Carl Hagelin received a maintenance day.

Zuccarello leaves Sochi, New York-bound

February, 19, 2014
Mats Zuccarello, who missed Norway's 4-0 loss to Russia with a hand injury on Tuesday, is headed back to New York Wednesday to be re-assessed, his agent Craig Oster told

It is not clear how or when Zuccarello sustained the injury but it was significant enough for the diminutive winger to miss Norway's qualification-round game. Zuccarello is the lone NHL player for the Norwegian squad, which has since been eliminated after being shut out by the Russians.

Zuccarello, who leads the Rangers in scoring with a career-high 43 points, will have more than a week to rest and recover before NHL action resumes.

The Rangers do not play until February 27, when they face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Without Zuccarello, Norway drops to Russia

February, 18, 2014
The Rangers got a brief scare Monday when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist went down following a collision in practice with Swedish teammate Erik Karlsson -- Lundqvist later returned to the ice and appears to be fine -- but they may have a more legitimate concern with an injury to their leading scorer Mats Zuccarello.

Zuccarello, the lone NHL player on team Norway, missed Tuesday's qualification-round game against host country Russia with a hand injury. It is not immediately known how severe the injury is or how it was sustained.

Without Zuccarello, the Norwegian team was blanked 4-0 by the Russians, who advance to the quarterfinals and will face Finland on Wednesday.

Zuccarello, one of seven Rangers competing in Sochi, Russia during the 2014 Olympic Games, leads the Blueshirts with 15 goals and 43 assists in what has been a career season for the diminutive winger.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Penguins 3 (SO)

February, 7, 2014
After blowing a late lead and coming perilously close to entering the Olympic break on a two-game losing streak, the Rangers recovered to top the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in an emotional shootout win Friday night on the road at Consol Energy Center.

Veteran center Brad Richards notched the shootout winner, Benoit Pouliot had a pair of regulation goals and defenseman Dan Girardi had a fine game to finish with a goal and an assist.

The Penguins erased one-goal deficits on three separate occasions and tied the game late in the third with James Neal’s equalizer with less than three minutes to go. It was the second time in as many nights the Rangers surrendered a critical goal on a defensive breakdown, but they didn’t leave any points on the table this time.

Sticking around: The Olympic roster freeze went into effect Friday at 3 p.m. with virtually no movement throughout the league prior to the deadline. That means pending unrestricted free agents Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi are sticking around -- at least for now. Neither player has reached an agreement with the team on a contract extension.

Power surge: Playing with fire against the top-ranked power play in the league, the Rangers paid for a few trips to the penalty box in the first two periods. Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta knotted the score at one in the first period, and the Pens converted again in the second period with Evgeni Malkin’s man-up marker to tie the game at two. Pittsburgh, which entered the game with a 24.9 percent success rate on the power play, has cashed in on 48 of 188 attempts this season. The Rangers matched the Penguins with a pair of power-play goals as well from Girardi and Pouliot. The Rangers went six straight games without a scoring on the man advantage -- albeit they didn’t even have a single opportunity Thursday night -- heading into Friday’s action.

First strike: The Rangers jumped on the Penguins early, scoring just 64 seconds into play. Pouliot finished off Mats Zuccarello’s rebound attempt, beating Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 lead. Zuccarello, the lone NHL’er on the Norwegian national squad to compete in Sochi, Russia, recorded his eighth point in the past six games. The diminutive forward, who was discovered by Rangers GM Glen Sather during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, has two goals and six assists during that span.

Well wishes: The mysterious illness ailing Kris Letang was revealed Friday, when Pittsburgh announced that the Penguins defenseman suffered a stroke last month. Though the situation is not considered to be life threatening -- Letang can treat the condition with blood thinners -- he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks. Scary stuff.

Sochi-bound stars: Metropolitan Division rivals on Friday night, some of the Rangers and Penguins will join forces once they head over to Sochi this weekend. Rick Nash will join superstar Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on Team Canada, while Rangers Callahan, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh will partner up with American-born defensemen Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin.

Zuccarello the hero in Bronx

January, 26, 2014
NEW YORK -- Before the Stadium Series pregame media appearances, Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello had never been to Yankee Stadium. Zuccarello, a native of Norway, only could go off what others had told him about the big ballpark in the Bronx.

On Sunday, Zuccarello got to play in the first hockey game at the new Yankee Stadium, and he made it a memorable affair.

Zuccarello notched the tying and go-ahead goals in the Rangers' 7-3 win over the Devils. He tied the NHL record for most goals in an outdoor game with his 14th and 15th goals of the season, and now has 37 points.

"I know it's a very special building to play in. I've never been here and baseball isn't that big in Norway," Zuccarello said. "I've lived in the U.S. for quite a while so I know it's real special. It's special for me too to come from Norway and to play at this rink and get the win too, it's pretty amazing. Very happy about today."

Zuccarello tied the game early in the second period on a feed from John Moore -- the puck careened off his skate and eluded Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. Nearly 10 minutes later, on a three-on-one rush, Zuccarello made the Devils pay again as he put the Rangers ahead for good at the 12:44 mark. He now ranks second on the team in both goals and points.

Sunday also marked Zuccarello's first time playing an outdoor game in the NHL, as he did not participate in the 2012 Winter Classic -- he was playing in the AHL at the time and was sidelined by an ankle injury.

"It was obviously a little disappointing not to play in that," Zuccarello said. "Today was probably a better day in front of our home fans in New York. I'm happy I could play with this group here at this stadium."

6 things to watch: Sochi Olympics

January, 8, 2014
We're now less than a month from the Sochi Olympics, and the buildup to the hockey tournament has been rife with both excitement and controversy. While the majority of NHLers will pack their bags for an exotic locale or hole up at home for a cozy stay-cation during the break, elite players will battle on the big ice for a chance at a gold medal. Here are six things to watch when it comes to your local New York/New Jersey Olympians:

1. Can Lundqvist find an extra gear?

Henrik LundqvistDespite a dip in his recent play, Henrik Lundqvist remains the clear-cut No. 1 starting goaltender for Team Sweden, which is more than we've been able to say at times for him during a disappointing first half of the 2013-14 season. Lundqvist relishes competing for his native country in international play and has earned the top prize before, when Sweden won at the 2006 Torino Games.

This tournament may be exactly what he needs to re-establish his game at an elite level. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has yet to really get on a roll this season, but maybe he'll establish a groove across the pond.

He'll have a stacked team in front of him that boasts a roster of experienced forwards such as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg, and a back end that features some exciting young talent in Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

2. Will Tavares finally receive some recognition?

John TavaresOK, so he has not flown completely under the radar. After all, John Tavares was one of the top three finalists for last season's Hart Trophy. But the Olympic stage will provide yet another platform for the center to showcase his skills on an international scale.

The former first overall pick may not play his natural pivot position because of Canada's tremendous depth down the middle, but he will play with what appears to be the strongest forward group in the Games. That'll be a bit different for Tavares, who has shouldered the bulk of the load for his struggling Islanders the past four seasons. It should be interesting to see what he can do when playing with some of the most dynamic guys in the game.

3. What will we see from Jagr and the unpredictable Czechs?

Get this: 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who will play in his fifth Olympics when he takes the ice in Sochi, isn't even the oldest guy on the Czech team. Nope, that dubious honor goes to 42-year-old Petr Nedved, who was a somewhat surprising selection (especially considering he won silver for Team Canada back in the 1994 Games). Although Jagr's beard is graying, his game is still looking pretty robust. He leads the New Jersey Devils in scoring with 13 goals and 35 points. Next in line is Patrik Elias, who will join him on the Czech team. The team opens against Sweden, but if there's anything to learn from Jagr's stunning first half this season, it's never to count the veteran out.

4. Will the U.S. medal?

Following the uproar over certain perceived slights -- Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, Keith Yandle -- can the U.S. team recover and save face with a medal?

The Americans lost in the gold-medal game to the Canadians four years ago in Vancouver on Sidney Crosby's memorable overtime game winner, a play Ryan Callahan certainly remembers well. The 28-year-old Rangers captain, joined by teammates Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan on the U.S. team, is one of four returning members from that group, and you can bet he has more than enough motivation to exact revenge.

Callahan, who recently missed three weeks with a sprained right knee, is in a contract year, with no signs of an extension imminent. The Rangers will be keeping their fingers crossed that he emerges from the Olympics unscathed, while other general managers may be keeping a close watch on the spark-plug forward as the March 5 trade deadline approaches.

5. Will Zuccarello lead the dark-horse Norway squad?

Diminutive winger Mats Zuccarello was the lone NHLer named to the Norwegian national team, so look for him to lead the way. Heck, he's been leading the way for the Rangers, too, in recent weeks. The 26-year-old forward, discovered by the Rangers after some standout performances in international play, leads the team both in goals (10) and points (30). What's more impressive is that the stretch he's put together came after a brief stint in coach Alain Vigneault's doghouse while serving as a healthy scratch.

6. Will Rick Nash help Canada's effort to win back-to-back gold medals?

The star winger has been impressive in international play, although his game this season for the Rangers has left something to be desired.

Granted, he missed almost six weeks with a concussion, but Nash has been inconsistent. At times, absolutely electrifying. Others? Downright ineffective. In fact, his underwhelming nine-goal, 18-point campaign left some fans disgruntled at his selection, with Martin St. Louis and James Neal notable forward omissions.

It's not just the entire country of Canada that needs Nash to find his game. Similar to Lundqvist's situation, the Rangers have to hope that No. 61 can turn it up a notch and improve his play heading into the last few months of the season.