Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh will miss the final three games of the regular season, beginning with tonight's contest at The Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning, due to an upper body injury suffered in Monday's game in Columbus.
When asked if McDonagh could also miss the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs next week, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault reiterated what the team announced formally earlier in the day that McDonagh would be out for an indefinite period of time.
"Injuries are a part of the NHL game," explained Vigneault. "I know Ryan is an important player, the captain of our team, but the games moves on and our job is to find ways to win, and that's what we are going to try and do."
McDonagh's regular season ends with him having played in 73 games. He scored nine goals--which is currently tied for most among the team's defensemen, added 25 assists and totaled 34 points. His +26 plus/minus rating is tops on the team and is tied for eighth-best among all NHL players.
The captain of the Blueshirts missed six games in February due to a pair of head injuries. New York was 4-1-1 in those six games McDonagh did not play.
Rookie defenseman Brady Skjei, the team's 2012 first round draft pick, was recalled from the minor leagues and will take McDonagh's spot in the lineup tonight--with Vigneault adding "Brady's going to play" this final week to help determine his readiness should the Rangers need him in the playoffs.
In 68 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack this season the 22 year-old Skjei has scored four goals and totaled 28 points. He is sixth in scoring on the Wolf Pack roster, and his 24 assists are third most. Skjei also has appeared in four games with the Rangers this season without recording a point.
"When we've used Brady he has played well for us," stated Vigneault. "He has the skating ability and puck-moving ability which permits him to, in my estimation, play in this league. Is he there yet? He's going to get a couple of games to show us what he can do."
Because of the fact that Skjei is a left-handed shot, like McDonagh, he is more of an option to replace the 2016 NHL All Star in the Rangers lineup than rookie right-handed shot Dylan McIlrath, who has appeared in 31 games during this season, his rookie campaign in the NHL.
McIlrath will play tonight, however. With the Rangers having clinched a playoff berth Monday, veteran Dan Boyle will get the night off and McIlrath will play for the first time since March 6 when he injured his knee in a game against the Islanders.
With both McDonagh and Boyle out tonight, the Rangers will use Skjei and Kevin Klein on the points of the second power play unit.
Vigneault mentioned that veteran Raphael Diaz, who has 201 games of NHL experience with the Rangers, Canadiens, Canucks and Flames, was also a consideration to be recalled from Hartford, where he has appeared in 35 games this season. However he is currently sidelined by injury.
In addition to the changes on defense tonight, Vigneault said that Oscar Lindberg will play after being a healthy scratch the previous ten games. Lindberg , who has 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points in 66 games played this season, will take the place of Kevin Hayes.
"Oscar played some good hockey for us, and Kevin has played some good hockey for us," offered Vigneault. "It was a matter of I wanted to get (Oscar) in at least one game before the playoffs start, and I picked tonight, a back to back."
Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 27 of 29 shots in Monday's 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets will start in goal for the Rangers against the Lightning.