Though he did not take part in either today's optional morning skate or yesterday's optional practice at Madison Square Garden, Ryan McDonagh will be in the Rangers lineup tonight when the Blueshirts host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
"He's good to go," head coach Alain Vigneault said of McDonagh, who played more than 22 minutes Tuesday in his return from an upper body injury which had caused him to miss the final three games of the regular season and the first two contests of this series.
Injured defenseman Dan Girardi did take part in both Wednesday's practice and today's morning skate, but he will not be able to play again tonight. Girardi appeared in the opener of this series, but will sit out his third straight game tonight, and fifth in the past six contests, with an undisclosed injury.
Vigneault did say that he is considering some changes to his lineup--both up front among his forwards as well as on his defense corps. Oscar Lindberg and Marek Hrivik were the healthy forwards scratches in New York's 3-1 loss in Game Three on Tuesday, while the extra healthy defensemen were Dylan McIlrath and Raphael Diaz. Of those four players only McIlrath has seen action so far in this series, playing in the Game Two victory in Pittsburgh.
Bucking a recent trend of not publicly naming his starting goalie before each game of this series, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said that rookie Matt Murray will start in goal tonight in Game Four.
The 21 year-old Murray, who missed the first two games of the series with an undisclosed injury, made his NHL playoff debut a winning one Tuesday, stopping 16 shots to earn the victory.
Needless to say, it is a point of emphasis tonight for the Rangers to generate more offense and to make Murray work a lot harder tonight then he did in Game Three.
"We have to work harder to find ways to get more on the inside against them," stated veteran forward Eric Staal. "Getting to the net is a big key for us tonight."
Former Blueshirt Carl Hagelin told reporters this morning that he expects tonight's game--and the rest of the series, for that matter--to remain tight-checking and low scoring on both sides.
Sullivan also told reporters that Pittsburgh's No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has not skated the past couple of days and continues to "go through the process" of returning from a concussion. He will miss his tenth consecutive game tonight.
After spending three hours in a dentist's chair Wednesday after losing three teeth in Tuesday's contest courtesy of an errant Kris Letang stick, Viktor Stalberg was one of 14 Rangers to take part in the optional skate today.
Smiling through a swollen lip, Stalberg said these were the first teeth he had lost this year, and had been fortunate throughout his career having lost only a couple others along the way. Though he wanted to turn the page on Tuesday's incident, Stalberg did refute Letang's claim that the Penguins defenseman apologized to him right afterwards.
"No, that’s not (true),” Stalberg said. “I haven’t heard anything from him and honestly I couldn’t care less if he did or not. That’s part of the game. That’s part of the playoffs. We’re not looking to focus on this. I think it’s about we’ve got to be better here together as a group tonight.”