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Kreider cleared to play, expected to return soon for Rangers

Forward has been out since Dec. 27 because of blood clot in right arm

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

Forward Chris Kreider has been cleared medically and is expected to return to the New York Rangers' lineup in the next few days, coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday. Kreider has not played since being diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm on Dec. 27.

Vigneault said Kreider will not travel with the Rangers for their game against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, MSG 2, NHL.TV), but could play at home against the Minnesota Wild on Friday or at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

"He's been cleared with the docs," Vigneault said. "He skated with us again [Wednesday]. That's not a lot of full practice time, but he skated again [Wednesday]. … I would say [Kreider] is getting close and that's going to be positive. That's going to bring us positive energy."

Kreider, who left in the first period of the Rangers' 1-0 shootout win against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 27 because of swelling his arm, returned to practice on Feb. 14. He had rib resection surgery to treat the blood clot on Jan. 7.

Video: NHL Now on Chris Kreider, Jeff Carter being cleared

The Rangers are 7-15-1 in the 23 games Kreider has missed. At 27-28-5, they are six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"I don't like watching," Kreider said last week. "The game is pretty easy when you're watching on television or watching from up in the [press box]."

Vigneault also said that defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk and backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec have been skating on their own.

McDonagh hasn't played since Feb. 7 because of an upper-body injury. There has been speculation that the Rangers might move him before the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Monday and his health could impact interest in him.

"He's skating full go, so I think it's just a matter of days here before he can join the group in full practice," Vigneault said.

Shattenkirk had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Jan. 22. Pavelec has been sidelined since Feb. 9 because of a sprained MCL.

Vigneault said Pavelec has yet to resume facing shots.

Defenseman Marc Staal is expected to return Thursday after missing eight games with a cervical strain. He last played against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 3.

Vigneault said 22-year-old rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev will make his first NHL start Thursday.

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