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Rangers Insider: Mats Zuccarello ‘starting to work out’

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Mats Zuccarello exits a playoff game against the Penguins.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Mats Zuccarello exits a playoff game against the Penguins.

Alain Vigneault said Thursday on WFAN that right wing Mats Zuccarello, who hasn’t played since Game 5 of the first round after taking a puck to the left side of his head, is “starting to work out,” his first public comments on Zuccarello’s status since the injury.

Asked directly about Zuccarello’s availability for the Eastern Conference Finals, Vigneault — who said he was keeping his “fingers crossed” — added “there’s always hope.”

The last official update from the team came Saturday when the Rangers said Zuccarello was “progressing,” but there was no change in his status.

Vigneault said Dan Boyle “feels a lot better” after taking a hit to the head from Brooks Orpik in the third period of Game 7 on Wednesday night. Boyle didn’t return to the game but was on the ice celebrating the victory. “(Boyle) will be evaluated (Friday) and we’ll know more then,” Vigneault said on WFAN.

To no Rangers fans surprise, former Blueshirt captain Ryan Callahan returned to practice on Thursday in Florida just three days after having his appendix taken out and would not rule himself out for Game 1 on Saturday.

“Each day it’s felt tremendously better,” Callahan told reporters in Brandon, Fla. “It’s been a good sign.”

Martin St. Louis, the future Hall of Famer that the Rangers acquired last spring in the Callahan trade, has hit a low point entering this series against his longtime former team.

St. Louis had a woeful start to Game 7 against Washington with three first-period giveaways and was benched for the final 10:03 of regulation in favor of J.T. Miller. St. Louis resumed his regular shifts in overtime but remains without a goal in 12 postseason games. He has added four assists.

On top of that, in late November, when St. Louis returned to Tampa Bay to play for the first time since the trade, Lightning coach Jon Cooper took a shot at St. Louis calling him a “kid” and tossing in comments like “we just weren’t together very long” or “he’s not playing for us anymore.”

Rangers defensemen combined for just one point in the first four games against the Capitals, and the Blueshirts fell behind, 3-1, in the series. The Rangers’ blue line erupted for seven points in Games 5, 6 and 7, and the team won all three.

Boyle’s power play goal in Game 2 had been the lone production through four games. But captain Ryan McDonagh scored the Game 5 winner and assisted on Kevin Hayes’ power-play goal in Game 7; Kevin Klein chipped in an assist on Chris Kreider’s early goal in Game 6. Boyle scored the Game 6 winning goal, and Dan Girardi and Keith Yandle (two assists in final three games) assisted on Derek Stepan’s Game 7 winner.

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