GREENBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Rangers have a chance of getting captain Ryan McDonagh back for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
McDonagh practiced on Monday for the first time since sustaining an upper-body (hand) injury against Columbus in the final week of the regular season, and he was back on the ice Tuesday. McDonagh sat out as the Rangers split the opening two games of their best-of-7 series with the Penguins.
Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t expect McDonagh to practice Monday, but the defenseman got the go-ahead from the training staff and skated the entire session, which lasted a little less than an hour.
Vigneault was coy Monday about McDonagh’s status for Tuesday night’s game Madison Square Garden. At first he said he was doubtful and later said “stranger things have happened.”
On Tuesday, the coach sounded slightly more optimistic.
“What I can tell you is Ryan’s going to meet with our doctors this afternoon, and from there they’ll make a decision,” Vigneault said. “I said doubtful yesterday and (his chance of playing is) a little higher than I said yesterday.”
McDonagh was not made available to the media.
“It’s a good thing that he is skating,” goaltender Henrik Lundqist said Monday. “That’s the best part. We know that he is close. We just don’t know what game.”
Dan Girardi, who missed the second game of the series, did not practice Monday and his status is day to day.
Defenseman Kevin Klein, whose playing time has increased with McDonagh out, said it was good to see him skating.
“You don’t replace Mac; you just do your best to fill in the minutes,” Klein said. “It’s one of those things with him and (Girardi), there are a lot of minutes to fill, and I think the guys did a great job of filling in and doing what they could to contribute.
The job of taking up those minutes has fallen to rookies Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath.
“This is a large stage and this is an opportunity for them,” forward Eric Staal said. “They have understood that. Brady has looked more comfortable every day and definitely looked a little more at ease in Game 2. It’s big in the playoffs to have different people step up at different times and they have done that.”
Skjei spent most of the season at Hartford of the AHL, playing in seven games with the Rangers. He has played in both playoff games and looked good.
“I am playing pretty confident,” Skjei said. “I am trying to make the simple play when it is there and not try to do too much with the puck.”
Skjei said he isn’t even thinking about the pressure, saying once that gets in your head too much can go wrong.
McIlrath, who spent almost the entire season with the Rangers, replaced Girardi on Saturday and was physical in a game New York had 57 hits.
Mcilrath’s status for Game 3 is uncertain.
The Rangers recalled defenseman Raphael Diaz from Hartford on Monday, giving them an experienced player who can help on the power play. He played in 2014 when New York reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
“He is good depth for us at this time, and I believe if we need him, he’s ready.”
Vigneault would not discuss his lineup for Game 3.
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