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Rangers get McDonagh, Staal back vs. Blues

Defensemen return from injuries; St. Louis to start Allen in net

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

RANGERS (34-20-6) at BLUES (35-18-9) 

TV: 8 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-MW, NHL.TV 

ST. LOUIS -- Defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal will return to the lineup for the New York Rangers on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues.

McDonagh has missed two games with a neck/jaw injury, and Staal missed the Rangers' 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday with a lower-body injury.

"I feel good; unless something changes [Thursday] afternoon, I'm good to go," said Staal, who left the Rangers' last practice early. "… I needed a couple days to settle down. I felt a lot better this morning. Should be good to go tonight."

The Rangers, who will conclude their three-game trip at the Dallas Stars on Saturday, are unsure about their lineup for Thursday. Fourth-line right wing Marek Hrivik stayed behind at the team hotel Thursday morning with flu-like symptoms and will be a game-time decision, according to coach Alain Vigneault.

"Wasn't feeling well this morning," Vigneault said. "But they spoke this morning and he should be good to go. If he's not, then we'll just play (defenseman) Dylan (McIlrath) up front."

The Blues will turn back to goalie Jake Allen, who will get his first start since injuring his left knee Jan. 8 at the Anaheim Ducks.

Allen has been thrust back into the starter's role after missing six weeks in light of the lower-body injury to Brian Elliott, who is expected to miss at least four weeks.

"I feel good in there. It's been a long six weeks," Allen said. "Some weird stretches of no practices, All-Star break, but over the last couple weeks, I've been working hard to get my game back just to feel comfortable in the net again. I feel like I'm seeing the puck well again. I'm looking forward to tonight."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said as long as Allen is healthy, the net is his.

"The challenge for us is to keep a goalie healthy right now," Hitchcock said. "When you lose players that have had knee injuries, you're just hoping that they're … we waited as long as we could on Jake, even extended the time so he was 100 percent, but you never know. You never know in this business.

"We're so grateful we've got two good goalies, but it's one of those things you never know right now. Both guys have really stepped up and been kind of the story of our team that's held this thing together when we've had these injuries."

Here are the projected lineups:

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello  
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast  
Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg  
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Marek Hrivik

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi  
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle - Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

Injured: Rick Nash (bone bruise)
Scratched: Dylan McIlrath

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen
Pheonix Copley

Injured: Alexander Steen (upper body), Alex Pietrangelo (knee), Brian Elliott (lower body), Steve Ott (hamstring)
Scratched: Ryan Reaves (suspended), Ty Rattie, Jordan Schmaltz

Status report: With Reaves suspended three games, Jaskin steps into his role on the fourth line. … If Hrivik plays, McIlrath will be a healthy scratch.

Who's hot: Zuccarello has two goals and five assists in the past six games, and Brassard has four goals and an assist the past five games. … Fabbri has a point in seven of the past 10 games (three goals, five assists), and Schwartz has a goal in four of six games and a point in five of six (four goals, two assists) since returning from a fractured left ankle.

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