NEW YORK -- Ah, the playoffs. Just like cherry blossoms in the spring and the turning of leaves in the fall, you know it’s that time of year when every sort of injury development is shrouded in secrecy and cloaked in subterfuge.
Poor Derick Brassard, who did his best to be sly when asked repeatedly whether he will play in Game 3 on Thursday night (8 ET) at Madison Square Garden. The affable 26-year-old center did his best to give the critical non-answer to any and all queries concerning his status.
Could you play if the game was Wednesday night?
“Good question,” he said. “You have to ask AV [coach Alain Vigneault].”
Do you feel well enough?
“Ah, that’s a good question,” he said, laughing. “If the game would be tonight, I don’t know. I’d have to talk with everyone. I don’t know.”
Brassard missed Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals with an undisclosed injury. He has not played since being forced from Game 1 by a monster, open-ice hit from Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver during the first period of play.
According to Vigneault, he remains “day to day,” with the veteran coach showing no willingness to tip his hand, especially with a 2-0 series lead to protect.
Brassard did say, however, he was encouraged by the fact he skated for the first time in four days.
“To finish practice was a really good sign,” he said. “I haven’t talked to AV or the medical staff. We’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Brassard, who had four goals and five points in the team’s second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, said he was “frustrated” to watch Game 2 from the press box, not just because it was in his native Quebec, but because the magnitude of the match held so much importance.
“I was pretty mad about it, but injuries are a part of the game and I try to just to heal quicker and get back out there and help my teammates,” Brassard said.
Though Brassard has centered the team’s most consistent and productive line for the latter half of this season and playoff run, he has been pleased with how the team has fared without him. The Rangers routed the Habs 7-2 in their series-opening game at Bell Centre and secured another critical road win in Game 2 thanks to a marvelous 40-save goaltending performance from Henrik Lundqvist.
Veteran center Dominic Moore replaced Brassard between linemates Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello, while Rick Nash took his place on the power play. Moore delivered a pair of sensational assists in Game 1, while Nash snapped his 14-game goal drought with a man-up marker in that same game. He has now scored two goals in the past two games.
“The guys played well, they battled, we found a way to win the game, our goaltending has been outstanding, we just need to play the same way here [at Madison Square Garden],” Brassard said. “There’s going to be a buzz around town, a buzz here in the rink. We need to come out tomorrow and be flying.”
Though Brassard returned to the ice Wednesday, Pouliot took a maintenance day. It is not believed to be serious and Pouliot is expected to be available to play Thursday night.