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Rangers' McDonagh returns to practice

Defenseman doubtful for Game 3 vs. Penguins, but Vigneault says 'stranger things have happened before'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is considered doubtful Tuesday for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG).

McDonagh missed the first two games of the series, which is tied 1-1, since sustaining a hand injury April 4. He was a full participant in practice Monday wearing a regular jersey, an indication he has been cleared for contact.

"At this time I would say doubtful, but stranger things have happened before," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Vigneault said McDonagh has not been declared eligible to play in a game. He was surprised the Rangers captain was even able to practice, echoing what he said Sunday, when he said he didn't expect McDonagh to be available.

"I knew he skated on his own [Sunday]; I watched him a little bit," Vigneault said. "I did not expect him to skate with the group [Monday], but after discussing with our medical staff they thought it would be a good idea for him to get a practice in and we'll see how he responds."

Video: Vigneault On McDonagh's Status

McDonagh was involved in every drill and appeared to have no issues stickhandling or shooting. He was on what would be the fourth defensive pair alongside American Hockey League call-up Raphael Diaz, although that might have just been done to keep the Rangers' three defense pairs from Game 2 intact. 

"He looked fine," Vigneault said of McDonagh. "He was skating well, he was handling the puck well. He's been skating a while, and [Monday] he put a little bit more together and he looks all right."

Diaz was recalled Monday from Hartford, where he played the entire season. Diaz has played in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his career, including three with the Calgary Flames last season.

Vigneault would not rule out the possibility of Diaz playing Tuesday, saying there are decisions to make with seven healthy defensemen, not including McDonagh and Dan Girardi, who did not practice and is out with an undisclosed injury.

If Diaz goes in, he would in all likelihood replace Dylan McIlrath, who played 9:07 in Game 2 but only 4:26 after the first period.

"[Diaz] is a defenseman that can help out on the power play and can move the puck," Vigneault said. "He's got NHL experience. He's got playoff experience. So he's good depth for us at this time and we'll see. I believe if we need him, he's ready, so we'll make that decision there in due time."

Video: Klein After Rangers' Monday Practice

Just as they will make the decision on McDonagh. The Rangers next hit the ice for a morning skate Tuesday. If McDonagh is out there, his chances of playing will go up.

"In the last little while it's been getting better, so who knows," Vigneault said.

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