Practice Notes: Del Zotto and Hank Return, Auld Speaks

Michael Del Zotto returned to practice today for the first time since February 12th when he was injured as Evgeni Malkin’s skate sliced through his jersey and lacerated his chest. He had the 50 stitches that were used to close the wound removed about 20 minutes prior to practice and then stayed after practice for conditioning drills with assistant coach Mike Sullivan. It is still unclear as to whether Del Zotto will play Tuesday when the Rangers return to action against Ottawa. When he does return, Del Zotto will be wearing a protective pad that will be sewn into his jersey to protect the injured area during contact.

Henrik Lundqvist also returned to the ice this morning following his exit from the Olympic tournament in Vancouver. Lundqvist said he needed a couple of days to absorb and get over Sweden’s quarterfinal loss on Wednesday but is now ready to focus on the rest of the NHL season. “Today, I’m focused on the Rangers,” Lundqvist added. “I wanted a couple of days off. But it felt good coming into the rink today.”

Newly acquired backup goalie Alex Auld also was on the ice with his new team for the first time and spoke to reporters following his first practice. Auld said he was happy to be with the Rangers, especially considering the alternative was likely playing in the AHL. But he said he’s always liked New York and he’s excited by the chance to work with Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire and with Lundqvist. He also told Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants that he was ready to contribute in any way he is needed. “I want to keep an open mind,” said Auld, “I understand who the other guy is in net and how good he is. I understand his role and what he brings. I just want to help, however much that may be. I’ve found out through my career that if I’m worried about when I’m not in net, when I do play, it can be a distraction.”

The NHL trade freeze will be lifted at midnight tonight and the trade deadline is scheduled for March 3rd at 3pm. The Rangers haven’t made it clear as of yet whether they will be buyers or sellers over the coming days but either way, Rangers fans will be looking forward to watching Glen Sather and Co. attempt to pull the trigger on some deals and to watching their team begin another late season push for the postseason. Whatever happens, we’ll have all of it right here for you.

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