NEW YORK – Rangers captain Chris Drury, out since February 3 after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, will return to the lineup this afternoon for the Rangers in their do-or-die regular season finale against the Devils.
“He’s been wanting to go for a little bit, here,” head coach John Tortorella said about two hours before puck drop. “I’m not sure exactly how much he’ll play. He’ll take some faceoffs, he’ll kill some penalties, but he gives us a little bit of juice as far as coming back in. Our captain’s back in the lineup.”
The Rangers currently sit in ninth place, at 43-33-5, tied in points with the Carolina Hurricanes who own the tiebreaker. The Rangers need to get one more point against the Devils than the Hurricanes get against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, in a game scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight. A regulation loss by the Rangers will end their season, no matter what Carolina does.
Drury, who has scored only four assists all season, is expected to bring a calming influence to the Rangers.
“He’s well respected. Dru’s not a holler guy in the room, he leads by example,” Tortorella said. “I think when you look at him, how hard he’s worked with a chronic knee here, I think the same thing goes for Prospal, how hard he worked to get back. I think that just adds something to your locker room. He’s just so well-respected by his teammates.”
In other lineup news, Matt Gilroy will return to his familiar spot on right defense, skating with Bryan McCabe.
Steve Eminger will be a healthy scratch for the first time in 11 games. It’s his 16th healthy scratch of the season.
“Let me make sure you understand,” Tortorella said. “Emmy has given us some really good minutes. I thought he stepped in really nice a couple games ago when [Ryan] McDonagh was struggling a bit. That was a tough decision. We’re hoping to maybe get out of end zone a little quicker with Gilly as far as a first pass, and maybe add some offense.”
As for his team, which is on the brink of elimination, Tortorella is confident of their mindset.
“I’m sure they’ll be just fine,” Tortorella said. “Why wouldn’t they be? It’s a great opportunity.”