GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Reinforcements are coming for the slumping New York Rangers.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh declared himself healthy and ready to return to the lineup Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Right wing Rick Nash continued to sound optimistic about his status while still saying he won't know for sure if he'll be able to play for the first time in five games until he gets to Madison Square Garden.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (lower-body injury) also skated in a regular green practice jersey Thursday morning at the team's suburban training facility, but he left the dressing room before the media could speak to him.
McDonagh, who received 14 stitches around his mouth following his face-first hit into the boards this past Saturday in Montreal, was the most definitive about his status for the game against Tampa Bay.
"Absolutely, I'm excited about it," McDonagh said when asked if he will be back in the lineup after missing the game Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets. "I wanted to see how I felt after my first skate. There were no issues. I felt even better today, so I'm excited about playing tonight."
Nash, whose injury remains undisclosed by the team, said he is basically hour-by-hour now and a decision will be made prior to the game. He has practiced with the team for three straight days after missing nine.
He is expected to participate in warm-ups Thursday night.
"Everything has been good, it's all been positive," said Nash, who hasn't played since Feb. 17 carrying a four-game point scoring streak.
The only Rangers who didn't take part in the morning skate Thursday were Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Matt Gilroy, Arron Asham and Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start in goal.
Asham (back) is the only confirmed injured player of that bunch. The team said Gilroy, who has played in 12 straight games, has the flu, so it's likely Steve Eminger will play for the second straight game.