- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers center Derick Brassard left practice early for the second consecutive day, though he insists he will be ready to play Game 1 of the team’s first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Brassard left Tuesday’s practice with an apparent back issue and did not partake in the latter portion of Wednesday’s session. Recently recalled prospect J.T. Miller filled Brassard’s absence, centering Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello during line rushes at the end of practice.
Brassard said he could’ve remained on the ice but wanted to play it safe.
“I could’ve skated the whole practice It was just a precaution for tomorrow,” Brassard said. “I feel 100 percent for tomorrow."
The 26-year-old Brassard, who centers one of the team’s most effective forward lines, said there is no doubt he will be ready to go Thursday.
“There’s no question in mind,” Brassard said. “It’s just a precaution. I think the day off I kinda had yesterday, to get off the ice, I think it really helped me to be 100 percent. I'm gonna try to help the team win some games.”
Asked if the issue was caused by one particular play, Brassard said it was rather one of the lingering ailments that just about every player deals with throughout the course of a grueling 82-game season.
“Not at all. You go through a season and you battle injuries. Everyone does around the league. It’s a long season, and I think that's why we got those two days off,” Brassard said. “Three days ago I was not 100 percent, but the past two days I think I’m 100 percent and that's what counts. I want to be ready to help the team tomorrow.”
While the Rangers seemingly avoided what could’ve been a very costly loss -- they are already without top-six forward Chris Kreider, who is sidelined indefinitely with an injured left hand -- the Flyers were not as lucky.
“Honestly, for us it doesn’t really matter if it's Mason or Emery. They’re both really good goaltenders,” said Brassard, who played with Mason while the two players were with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. “Steve had a really good season, and I think Emery is a goalie that has shown in the past that he can play in the playoffs, so for us, we focus on how we want to play. We want to play our game and it doesn’t really matter who is in net for them.”