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Rangers' Girardi skates, remains day-to-day

Defenseman sidelined with undisclosed injury; New York focused on improving special teams

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was one of 12 skaters who participated in an optional practice at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Girardi, though, is still considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

"I don't think that's changed," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Girardi has not played since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers trail the best-of-7 series 2-1 going into Game 4 in New York on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG).

Even if Girardi is able to return to the lineup in Game 4 or in the near future, Vigneault made it sound clear that he has no intention of taking rookie defenseman Brady Skjei out.

Skjei played 24 shifts totaling 19:53 of ice time in Game 3. His ice time has increased in each game in the series. He played 17:08 in Game 1 and 19:02 in Game 2. He has an assist and is a plus-1.

"I think he's played extremely well for a young man that has been put in playoff hockey with very limited amount of experience," Vigneault said. "I've said this many times, talent has no age. For the most part, other than a couple of decisions with the puck, I think his overall game has been very solid. I think whether you're a coach or a teammate, you feel pretty good and pretty confident when he's on the ice."

Rangers right wing Viktor Stalberg was not among the 12 skaters who participated in the optional practice. Stalberg lost three teeth when he was hit in the face by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang's stick in the third period.

Letang was not penalized for a high stick on the play.

"We might feel that it seems deliberate," Vigneault said. "The NHL doesn't see it that way and the referees on the ice at that time didn't see it that way, so just gotta deal with it and focus on the next game."

Part of the Rangers' focus will be on special teams. They're getting beaten in that area.

Pittsburgh is 4-for-13 on the power play and has a shorthanded goal. The Rangers are 1-for-12 with 14 shots on goal on the power play. They scored a shorthanded goal in Game 3, but they were 0-for-4 on the power play with three shots on goal.

"Right now the specialty teams is going in their favor, both on power play and penalty killing," Vigneault said. "We talked about that [Wednesday] morning with our group, a couple of areas that we believe we can be a lot better. We're putting something together video-wise with our group that we're going to focus on [Thursday]."

New York center Derick Brassard said the Penguins have been particularly good at defending the Rangers' zone entries on the power play.

"They're backing up," Brassard said. "They have a 1-1-2 and they give us a lot of space, but I feel like all their players are in between the red line and their blue line. Every time we make a pass on the side, their defensemen are singling out the guy with the puck. We need to have better support and make more plays. We can try to change our breakout, but we're going to have to have better execution with the puck.

"I think our power play kind of killed our energy [Tuesday], and it's us players that have to take full responsibility."

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