GREENBURGH, N.Y. — When the Rangers flew to Philadelphia Friday, there were some extra guests: About 20 mothers accompanied their sons on the weekend trip, which concludes in Washington on Sunday.
When dads have joined previous trips organized by coach Alain Vigneault here and in Vancouver, there were noisy dinners, arguing Xs-and-Os at games and some bar-hopping. This time, Vigneault said with a grin: “I think we’re going to have a group on their best behavior.”
After practice, players said their moms were equally supportive as fathers when it came to growing up with sports. “It’s more of a thank you trip, that’s what this feels like,’’ said Henrik Lundqvist.
Although grateful for the company, the Rangers (23-15-5, 51 points) who have not won consecutive games since Nov. 21-23, have to play with “desperation and determination,” Lundvqist said. They are 7-10-3 on the road. The Flyers (19-15-7, 45), who host the Blueshirts Saturday afternoon, have won four straight games. The Capitals, with 69 points, are leading the Eastern Conference, 12 points ahead of Florida.
“Right now there’s so little separating the teams,” said Vigneault, “if you take Washington out of the equation. If one night you have one or two players giving their ‘C’ game instead of a ‘B’ game on one or two of the lines, and one defenseman that’s doing the same thing, or if your power play’s not clicking, there’s a chance you’re not going to get any points. That’s the reality of the new NHL. It’s never been this tight.”
Lundqvist will make his 12th straight start Saturday, and Antti Raanta, who has played just once since Dec. 18, will start against the Capitals. Dan Girardi, who needed eight stitches in his thumb from a blocked shot, and did not dress against the Islanders, will return, and forward Oscar Lindberg is likely to be back after being a healthy scratch for two games.
Notes & quotes: Tanner Glass, who did a chicken dance mocking Cal Clutterbuck on Thursday, fired back at the Islanders forward Friday. Clutterbuck said Glass was afraid of Matt Martin, but Glass pointed him to hockeyfights.com, which lists three fights between Martin and Glass. “He’ll find out pretty quickly that I’m not scared of him.” Clutterbuck, said Glass, “is the toughest guy ever when it comes to (Derick) Brassard and (Mats) Zuccarello. He’s a phony.”