The first half of the season saw the Rangers play as many or more games than any other team leading into their five day league mandated break. The intensity of the schedule was further compounded by a number of key injuries, particularly to Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash.
Two of that trio will return tonight against Toronto as the Rangers kick off their second half. Nash has recovered from a second groin strain and is ready to resume his place in the line-up. The forward was starting to really get his game going before the back to back injuries - to different sides of his groin - kept him out for much of the last month.
For Buchnevich, it'll mark his first NHL game since November 12th when he was sidelined with back and core issues. The Russian rookie has played just 10 of the first 42 games that the Rangers have played, and like Nash, was really hitting his stride just as injuries sidelined him. After three appearances with the Wolf Pack, he'll return to the line-up tonight.
Also on the near horizon is the return of Zibanejad. The Swedish center has missed 23 games dating back to November 20th when he broke his fibula after sliding into the boards. Zibanejad has been skating in practice, but will likely need a couple more under his belt before being inserted back into the line-up.
In other injury news, Marc Staal remains out with a suspected concussion, with no timeline for return. The veteran defenseman has suffered two other concussions in his career that have kept him out for extended times, but appears to be taking this one more seriously. Forward Matt Puempel also remains out with his second concussion of the season.
Jesper Fast is likely to play after sitting out practice yesterday with the flu. Fast practiced today and is a game time decision. Marek Hrivik looks like the forward to miss out if Fast can go.