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Rangers' Girardi, Staal expected to play vs. Devils

by Dan Rosen

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are scheduled to make their preseason debuts Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN).

Girardi and Staal did not play in the Rangers' first three preseason games. They were held back out of precaution at the start of training camp; each had ankle surgery after the Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Girardi (22:41) and Staal (21:08) were second and third, respectively, in average ice time per game for the Rangers last season.

"All good to go," Girardi said. "You watch the games and you want to be in it now. Maybe the first one or first two you're like, 'OK, it's good to rest.' But now I want to get in there and get the feel of the game. You can practice all you want. But until you get physical contact in the game and all those plays you have to make, it's good to get in."

Girardi and Staal are the final two of the Rangers' expected top-six group of defensemen to play in the preseason. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle made their debuts Thursday against the Boston Bruins. Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein played previously. Yandle also played Thursday.

The Rangers have 12 defensemen remaining in training camp after sending Brett Bellemore and Tommy Hughes to camp with the Hartford Wolfpack, their American Hockey League affiliate, on Friday. The Rangers likely are going to keep seven defensemen, unless an eighth is possible under the salary cap.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said there will have more cuts coming after the game Saturday.

"Now that we trimmed it down a little bit, the roster size, now it's in guys' heads that we're building up to the first game," Girardi said. "We're all really excited just to get going, get our game speed up, game situations going. I'm just really excited to play [Saturday]."


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