Normalcy returns to Rangers with Olympic break over
The two-week Olympic hiatus has come to an end and the Stadium Series is but a memory.
Normalcy has returned to Rangers.
“My focus now is just playing well here and helping this team make the playoffs,” Carl Hagelin said after the Rangers optional skate Thursday morning at the Garden prior to last night’s game against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks.
Hagelin spent the break in Sochi playing for silver medal-winning Sweden. Fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, Americans Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh, Norwegian Mats Zuccarello and Canadian gold medal-winner Rick Nash were all in Russia over the break.
The Rangers began the business day solidly in playoff position, second in the Metropolitan Division and sixth the Eastern Conference following a five-week stretch in which they recorded 25 points while compiling a 12-5-1 mark.
But one hot streak, no matter how impressive, does not guarantee a playoff spot — not with 22 games remaining and 13 of the 16 teams in the conference jostling for playoff position.
So, in head coach Alain Vigneault’s mind, it is a positive his team resumes its season against Chicago before Saturday afternoon’s game in Philly against the Flyers and Sunday’s Garden match against the Bruins.
“From our standpoint, games are so important, points are so important,” Vigneault said. “We talked to our players [Wednesday] before practice [and] we had a good meeting [Thursday] morning. I think everybody understands we can’t take a couple days to get back in it. We have to play well and we have to play right now. I’m fairly confident that our guys will be ready.
“Everybody wants to get playing. We’ve had seven days of practice. It’s time to play some hockey [and] good for us, we’ve got three games in four nights right off the bat so that’s going to put us in hockey mode.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.