Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is used to dealing with bad ice around the league, so the historically poor conditions at Barclays Center were hardly a new obstacle.
As Vigneault’s Rangers prepared for a 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Thursday night in Brooklyn, he wasn’t altering his game plan just to deal with the consistently bumpy and soft playing surface.
“You have ice issues in a lot of buildings,” Vigneault said. “That’s just the reality of the NHL today. It’s something that, depending on the weather outside, depending on the humidity, some ices are good for five, six minutes, some others are better. But that’s just part of the NHL, and it’s the same for both teams, so you just deal with.”
The Islanders are in their second year with Barclays as their home — despite tensions between the building and tenant getting more contentious — and this was the Rangers’ fourth trip into the outer borough, and the final one this season. They still haven’t won here, with only one loss resulting in points, a shootout defeat last season.
The Islanders were on the mend, as integral defenseman Travis Hamonic skated before the team on Thursday morning, the first time he had been on the ice since injuring his knee on Jan. 7 in Arizona.
“It’s great,” interim head coach Doug Weight said. “I think a lot of the pain has gone out of him. I’ve been on that road with those knee injuries, and once you can get your mind free of that pain, you can really start pushing it. We’re going to see how he is through Saturday, and as long as nothing comes — I told him he’s not going to like this very much — we’re going to get aggressive, we have to get his lungs in shape and keep strengthening those legs.
“So, going to work at him hard. We need him back.”
Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein did not play because of flu-like symptoms. He was replaced by Adam Clendening, who got 11:25 of ice time while mostly paired with rookie Brady Skjei.
The Rangers’ power play came into the game having gone without a goal in its previous four games, a stretch of 0-for-10, and was hardly much better in 7:55 of man-advantage time against the Islanders.
The unit went 1-for-4, as Jimmy Vesey got one past Thomas Greiss during a scramble in front — albeit during a four-minute power play that also resulted in the Islanders scoring a shorthanded goal.
Regular Rangers agitator and Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck (lower body) missed his seventh straight game — and ninth in the past 10. He fully participated with the team during Thursday’s optional morning skate, and should be close to returning.
“He really had a good week,” Weight said. “He said he definitely feels like he’s taking strides and he wants to get back soon. So we’ll keep pushing him.”
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