Keith Yandle is saving his energy for Wednesday night’s Game 4 in Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH – Deadline acquisition Keith Yandle skipped the Rangers’ morning skate for a second straight game day on Wednesday but remained in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
The puck-moving defenseman is still dealing with an illness that kept him out for Monday’s morning skate in Pittsburgh, prior to Game 3. Yandle dressed for the Rangers’ 2-1 win, however, and provided a slick assist on Carl Hagelin’s goal to open scoring.
“He’s still not 100 percent so he’s just saving his energy for the game,” Alain Vigneault said early Wednesday afternoon.
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Kevin Klein (broken left arm) was ruled out for Game 4 on Wednesday night, but the injured Rangers defenseman is getting close to his first game action since March 11.
Klein skated with the full team on Wednesday morning for the second time in three days, and he took slap shots for a second straight day after doing so with the extras on Tuesday afternoon. Vigneault was at the team hotel during Tuesday’s session, so he was excited by what he saw at the rink.
“I just saw him out there earlier slapping pucks,” Vigneault said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen him do that. I would say that he’s close to having a full practice with the team.”
Full practices are few and far between, however, due to the postseason schedule, so Vigneault conceded that the team may have to consider morning skates as practices for Klein. That leaves open the possibility that the top-four defenseman could return as early as Game 5 on Friday night at the Garden.
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Center Derick Brassard scored two goals and had been the Rangers’ most consistent forward in this series entering Game 4. He is taking the next step in his career after signing a five-year, $ 25 million contract extension last summer, and doing it against a Penguins team with some of the best center depth in the league in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Sutter and Max Lapierre.
“He’s become a very dependable two-way hockey player,” Vigneault said of Brassard’s biggest improvement. “His knowledge of the game has really improved. His confidence, he’s going up against all the top lines in the league, and he’s done a real good job for us. We needed that evolution, and we got it.”
Most impressive may have been Brassard’s confident, composed speaking on behalf of the team prior to Game 4. He sounded like a leader, even though he wears no letter on his jersey.
“We’re not looking at the big picture,” Brassard said. “We’re not looking at beating them in five or six or whatever it is. We’re just looking forward to playing another solid game. We’re aware it’s possible to come back in a series, and they have the offense to do it. But I think this team is really well prepared. We expect a lot from each other, and I’m pretty sure we’re gonna be OK.”
STATS OF THE DAY
3-12: The Rangers’ playoff record, going into Game 4, when holding a one-game series lead since the start of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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