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Rangers regulars rest with Islanders' playoff berth on the line

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers celebrates

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers celebrates his first-period goal against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

In their final regular-season game at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers -- who have clinched home-ice advantage through the Stanley Cup playoffs -- are not dressing three regulars against the surging Ottawa Senators, who are in an intense battle for a playoff spot.

A win by the Rangers against Ottawa would give the Islanders a berth in the playoffs. The Isles can also clinch a playoff spot if Boston loses to Florida.

Leading scorer Rick Nash, defenseman Marc Staal and winger Mats Zuccarello, are listed as day-to-day.

"Not resting anybody," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "If guys aren't playing, they've got injuries."

Winger Ryan Bourque, who will make his NHL debut, and defenseman Chris Summers were called up from Hartford and will play; James Sheppard, who played Tuesday after being scratched for three straight, also will dress. Henrik Lundqvist, who backed up Cam Talbot against the Devils on Tuesday, is in net.

Typically tight-lipped about injuries at this point of the season -- and avoiding any suggestion that the Rangers were resting players in a big game for the Senators -- Vigneault declined to specify the injuries.

On Tuesday, when Zuccarello was scratched against the Devils, Vigneault said the forward was out with "overall body soreness." But he is believed to have a sore leg or foot. Staal, who has played every game this season, has been nursing numerous bruises.

Zuccarello, Nash and Staal didn't take part in the morning skate at the Garden. Nash, who has 42 goals and won both the annual Team MVP award in a vote by the media and the Players' Player Award from his teammates, met with reporters and said he was "feeling pretty good" and pleased with the recognition, especially from his teammates.

"It's pretty special to know that they believe in your game and that they're behind you," Nash said. "I don't think there's a better award that you can receive than one from your own team . . . You try to be on a mission every year; everyone I played with kind of helped me out a lot. That's the reason why you win individual awards. It's not because you're playing so well, it's mostly because of players around you."

Said Derick Brassard, a former teammate of Nash in Columbus: "He took his summer seriously. He was a force for us all year long."

Both Lundqvist and Brassard said the Rangers would not take the desperate Senators lightly. They have 95 points and are tied with Boston for the final wild-card spot in the East with two games to play.

"We want to play well," said Brassard. "We're not just going to show up tonight and play a different style. We want to try to win the game. Ottawa's possibly one of the teams we might play in the playoffs. We're looking at the standings, but there's so many different possibilities; we're pretty anxious to see who we're going to play, but at the end of the day, we're going to play a pretty good team that deserved all year to be in the playoffs. You've got to respect your opponent no matter who it's going to be."

Bourque, 24, a third-round draft pick in 2009, has 12 goals and 18 assists in 70 games for the Wolf Pack, including seven points in his last 14 games.

"You've just got to keep chipping away every day," said Bourque, who will wear No. 25. "Every season there's lots of ups and downs highs and lows, it's been a great trek, I'm really thankful for the opportunity to come here. It's been awesome watching them all season long, obviously it's not finished yet."

Summers, 27, acquired from Arizona on March 1, had three hits and two shots in 15:00 in his Rangers debut on Mar. 29 against Washington.




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Defenseman Kevin Klein (broken left arm), who stickhandled on his own before the skate and missed his 15th game, also was ruled out for Saturday's season finale in Washington by Vigneault.

"My expectation would be that he'll be ready for the start of the playoffs," he said.


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