Tyler Motte joked that whether the timing of his return from injury was correct “depends who you ask.”
The doctor’s opinion, then, will remain a mystery. Motte’s own will not.
“For me, it was at the right time,” he said following the Rangers’ practice Tuesday. “I felt ready. I was confident to go out and play. Obviously really itching to be a part of this. But again, this time of year, if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. You go out and you give everything you got.”
Motte only got to play nine regular-season games with the Rangers before suffering an upper-body injury that kept him out for about five weeks. Sitting in the press box as the Blueshirts played the most important games of their season, though, wasn’t what he envisioned when the trade went down.
“It’s definitely different [playing],” Motte said. “It’s not fun watching hockey this time of year, especially when your group’s in it.”
Upon returning to the lineup in Game 6 against the Penguins, Motte provided a reminder of why his acquisition at the trade deadline mattered.
Slotting in on the fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Ryan Reaves, Motte played his role effectively. He forechecked, added speed and helped out on the penalty kill. Against a Carolina team that brings a heavy forecheck of its own, that speed will be particularly important in the second round.
“Obviously it’s important for me to get to my game, get to it early as well as our group,” Motte said. “We know the style of game that they want to play. We know the style of game that we want to play and it’s just whoever can go in and do it the most is who’s ultimately gonna win.”
Goaltender Frederik Andersen did not practice Tuesday for the Hurricanes. Antti Raanta played the majority of the first round after Andersen suffered an injury toward the end of the regular season and is expected to begin the second round in the crease for Carolina.
The Rangers’ Game 7 victory over the Penguins was the most-watched non-Stanley Cup Finals game on cable since 2018, with 2.3 million average viewers.
With an average age of 27, the Rangers are the youngest team remaining in this postseason.