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Girardi Out; McIlrath 'Hungry' for Opportunity

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will not be in the lineup Saturday as the Rangers look to even their best-of-seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2, with the blueliner to miss the contest due to an undisclosed injury.

"Dan is out due to injury," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters following the team's Friday afternoon practice at CONSOL Energy Center. "He won't play tomorrow and with Dylan [McIlrath], we have six defensemen at this time, so we're looking at — we have six healthy D here right now so we're going to look at different options."

Girardi missed the final two of the regular season and missed eight overall. Saturday will mark the first playoff game Girardi will have missed since joining the Rangers during the 2006-07 season. He's played the most playoff games by a skater in Rangers history with 109.

McIlrath, in his first season with the Rangers, skated with Keith Yandle at practice. If he's called upon to play, the 23-year-old stated he's more than ready.

"I feel ready," McIlrath told reporters Friday. "I'm very excited. Obviously I don't know what the lineup will be but I'm just ready" if needed.

The former 2010 first-round pick skated in 34 games with the Rangers this season, scoring two goals and two assists to go along with 64 penalty minutes. He missed several weeks at the end of the season with a knee injury, but did dress in the final three games of the season, which he said benefited him heading into the playoffs

"It had been a while, especially coming off an injury, just to get the confidence back in myself, back in my body," McIlrath said. "It was a nice send off into the playoffs for sure."

Vigneault did say the team was "looking at the possibility of bringing someone else up to have seven" healthy defensemen for Saturday. Options in Hartford include Raphael Diaz, who has not played with the Rangers this season, and Chris Summers, who appeared in three games. Diaz is a right-handed shot, while Summer is left-handed.

The head coach did express confidence in McIlrath if he were needed to dress.

"Dylan's been with us the whole year. He's played over 30 games," Vigneault said. "If we need him to play tomorrow, I'm sure he's going to play well."

McIlrath, a healthy scratch on Wednesday, said watching before potentially playing in his first postseason game could be beneficial.

"It was a very fast-paced game for sure," McIlrath said. "Obviously Pittsburgh comes at you pretty hard and they'll make you pay with their transition game, it was definitely nice to have a spectator's view for the first one and if I ever do get the call, I know I'll have a good idea of what to expect."

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