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Rangers' Kreider medically cleared, day-to-day

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider has been cleared to play medically and is considered day-to-day. Kreider has been out since March 24 with a hand fracture that required surgery.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would neither confirm nor deny Kreider's place in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RD).

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

The morning after the Rangers enjoyed a day off Tuesday, Kreider participated in his first full-contact practice since sustaining the injury. He said that being out more than a month has been tough but he is hoping to return to the lineup soon.

"I just kind of take it day by day," Kreider said. "Otherwise it gets frustrating. I've just got to take it day by day and try to control the things I can control. That's how I've been approaching it this entire time. Now there's a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully."

In 66 regular-season games Kreider had 17 goals and 37 points. He especially found his stride playing on New York's top line alongside center Derek Stepan and left wing Rick Nash. Stepan and Nash, and the entire Rangers team for that matter, could use Kreider's combination of speed, size and strength.

Nash and Stepan have yet to register a point in the second-round series, and Nash is without a goal in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games after leading the Rangers with 26 during the regular season. The Rangers have been shut out by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in back-to-back games and are desperate to kick-start a power play that has gone 34 straight attempts without a goal.

"We need to battle their goalie a little more," Nash said. "We're making things a little easy on him. He's been playing well. We need to outwork them and score some goals. Traffic is the key. [Fleury] is seeing all the shots. Any goalie in this League, if they see the shot they're going to make the save 90 percent of the time. It's a matter of getting traffic and not allowing him to see it."

Vigneault wouldn't reveal any details about his lineup for Game 4, but there were hints he could stick with defenseman Raphael Diaz and forwards J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast, all of whom were inserted into the lineup for Game 3 after being healthy scratches for varying stretches. The trio provided fresh legs and energy to a team that was playing its fifth game in seven days. They could be relied on in Game 4 to counter a speedy Penguins team.

"Every opportunity is big for me, so I have to take advantage of that, starting from the first shift," Miller said. "I've just got to keep bringing energy and the physicality and try to make plays. It's a big time of year, so I've got to be responsible as well."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale

Brian Gibbons - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, Chris Conner

Injured: Brooks Orpik (undisclosed), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - J.T. Miller

Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

Raphael Diaz - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Chris Kreider, Derek Dorsett, Ryan Haggerty, Daniel Carcillo, John Moore, Justin Fal

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