Brendan Lemieux could not interfere in the lineup for Thursday's game against the islanders. But when he returned after a nine-game absence with a broken left hand, Lemieux played himself in the front row.
The stubborn winger played the entire third period with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider and prevailed in the garden on Sunday evening against Pavel Buchnevich, who lost 1: 2 against the Blue Jackets at the last minute.
"I don't put too much weight on when I come in here to see what the lineup looks like," said Lemieux. "I know that I will have the opportunity to play every night. Tonight was just another example of playing with our best player Mika. It is always an opportunity.
"It's a pity you couldn't win. I wanted to play tonight, I wanted to help be part of the playoffs and keep winning here. It sucks to get back in and not win. So it's a bad taste in my mouth. "
Lemieux broke his hand when he was hit with a puck in a game against the hurricanes on December 27th. He practiced twice with the team and started the game in the fourth row with Greg McKegg and Brendan Smith, pushing Micheal Haley out of the lineup.
"I felt good when you consider that it was a while ago. I had good legs," said Lemieux. "Of course, playing and adjusting to the speed of the game is not easy, but considering how long I haven't there was, I felt pretty good. "
Coach David Quinn explained the flip in part because Buchnevich had been fighting the flu the past week.
"Buchie was sick, just didn't think he had it tonight, especially at the end of the second hour," said Quinn. “Lemieux had energy. This usually happens when you come back from an injury – you play at speed. "
Quinn seemed to be promoting John Tortorella as the Jack Adams Award winner because the former Rangers coach had his team in the playoffs, despite Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky having retired as a free agent after a series of injuries and a summer.
"Torts did a phenomenal job," Quinn said before the game. "You just keep chugging. That is certainly proof of the work he has done. "
Quinn used his fourth line more than usual, with McKegg getting 8:41 Ice Age and Smith 9:17 (1:31 defending penalties). Buchnevich ended at 15:50, but only 2:51 in the third period.
You can find more information about the Rangers in the latest episode of the podcast "Up In The Blue Seats":