NEW YORK - Alain Vigneault was succinct.
“Doesn’t matter,” the New York Rangers coach told reporters on Thursday morning when he was asked about the two-game suspension issued to defenceman John Moore.
“So I don’t have any reaction.”
Moore won’t be in the lineup on Thursday night for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden after he was given the forced holiday by the National Hockey League. The suspension was levied Wednesday, a day after Moore’s late hit on Canadiens forward Dale Weise in Game 5.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien didn’t concur with the idea that Weise had a head injury, instead saying it was a “body injury” and that Weise would not be available on Thursday as Montreal tries to avoid elimination.
There will be boost for the Canadiens, presumably, as forward Brandon Prust will return after serving a two-game suspension for his late hit on the Rangers’ Derek Stepan in Game 3.
“He’s going to be hungry to play,” Therrien said. “He’s going to go hard. He’s excited about playing tonight. We’re glad he’s back in our lineup.”
Therrien said defenceman Alexei Emelin, who missed Game 5 with an unspecified injury, would be a “game-time decision.”
For the Rangers, the expectation is that Raphael Diaz will take Moore’s spot and play alongside Kevin Klein, though Vigneault mentioned that Justin Falk also was available.
The Rangers, with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven, are on the cusp of getting to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1994, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks for the title. For the Rangers to win on Thursday night, they’re going to need a better performance from goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled in Game 5.
“I expect him to play like he always does,” Vigneault said. “I mean, he’s a great goaltender. He strives when the pressure is on. He knows that tonight’s a big game.”
Vigneault said jokingly: “I heard (Rangers goaltending coach) Benoit Allaire say when we walked in ‘Tonight’s a big game.’ I think (Lundqvist) picked up on that and we’ll be fine.”
The Canadiens, meanwhile, will hope that youngster Dustin Tokarski can continue to keep his head above water in the Montreal net.
If Game 7 is needed, it will be at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night.