SUNRISE, FLA -- The Rangers practiced for the first time in calendar year 2016 Friday afternoon at the BB&T Center in south Florida, but veteran defensemen Dan Girardi was not on the ice with his teammates.
Girardi, who missed five consecutive games in December due to swelling in his knee caused by a small crack in the kneecap, was given a maintenance day Friday to rest the knee. Head coach Alain Vigneault explained that after Girardi played more than 23 minutes in the Rangers 5-2 win in Tampa Wednesday night his knee had some swelling again.
"We basically had two full days between (games) so our training staff decided to keep him off the ice today, thinking that tomorrow he should be near as good as he can be," Vigneault said after practice Friday. "I don't foresee anything (keeping him out of Saturday's lineup) unless something drastic happens."
The 32 year-old Girardi returned to the lineup following the Christmas holiday break, playing 18:50 in Monday's defeat in Nashville. He picked up an assist that night, attempted five shots, and blocked one. Two nights later he played a solid physical game against the Lightning, logging 23:24 worth of ice time, credited with four hits and one blocked shot.
"With any fracture you're always looking at 4-6 weeks, and obviously he's come back prior to that, so he's got a little pain to endure there, but I figure in a couple more weeks we shouldn't hear about this any more--that's what I am hoping anyway," added Vigneault.
The original injury occurred when Girardi blocked a shot in a game against the Vancouver Canucks on December 9.
During on-ice drills Friday Girardi's spot on defense was taken by both defenseman Dylan McIlrath and extra forward Kevin Hayes, who likely will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game Saturday down in Florida.
Girardi's defense partner, Ryan McDonagh, briefly had to leave the ice during practice after a puck accidentally hit him in the face. The Rangers captain suffered a small cut above his lip, as well a cut inside his mouth which was bleeding fairly heavily for a short time.
McDonagh got some quick treatment and returned to the ice and afterwards joked about his misfortune.
"Nice way to start the new year," said a laughing McDonagh. "That was Dom Moore who flipped the puck up and hit me. Dom Moore. Not that I'm bitter or anything!"