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Rangers' Yandle practices, expects to play Game 1

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with what coach Alain Vigneault first described as overall body soreness and then joked was the sniffles.

Teams rarely reveal injuries during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so it's not a surprise Vigneault is playing coy, but the important news for the Rangers is that Yandle is preparing to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Yep, I feel good," Yandle said. "I'm ready to go."

Vigneault also said defenseman Kevin Klein is likely to be in the lineup Thursday provided nothing changes with his status. Klein has not played since March 11, when he sustained a broken left arm blocking a shot by Washington captain Alex Ovechkin.

Klein has practiced all three days this week.

If Yandle and Klein play, the Rangers scratches on defense will be Chris Summers and Matt Hunwick, who played all five games in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I think that [Klein] should be ready to go [Thursday], so on D we should have a healthy core there," Vigneault said.

Yandle practiced Wednesday for the first time since the morning skate prior to Game 2 against the Penguins. He didn't miss a game in the first round, but he skipped the morning skates prior to Games 3 and 4 because Vigneault said he wasn't feeling well. He also didn't practice the day before Game 5, or Monday and Tuesday of this week.

"For me it was just resting, getting helped," Yandle said. "I think it works for everyone that way."

Vigneault never definitively said Yandle would play in Game 1.

"He looked good [Wednesday] for his first practice," Vigneault said. "He'll skate [Thursday] and I'm sure he'll be fine."

Vigneault also said right wing Mats Zuccarello remains out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Zuccarello didn't return to Game 5 against the Penguins after he was hit in the head by defenseman Ryan McDonagh's slap shot late in the first period. Zuccarello has not practiced this week.

Martin St. Louis is moving up to play in Zuccarello's spot on a line with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. James Sheppard is expected to replace Zuccarello and go in on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. Jesper Fast will move up to the third line to play with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin.

Vigneault didn't rule out Zuccarello's return at some point in the series.

"I would just say he's out indefinitely at this time," Vigneault said.

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