After skating on his own and getting treatment for his upper body injury at the MSG Training Center during Sunday's off day, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was feeling so good on Monday that he took part in his first team practice since being injured exactly two weeks ago while blocking a shot in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Seeing McDonagh practicing in full again was a surprise to his head coach--who had told reporters on Sunday that it was doubtful the team's top defenseman would be able to just yet--and a big lift to his teammates.
"It was nice to see Mac flying around," said a smiling Kevin Klein after practice. "The guys are always lifted up when they see a guy come back and skate with the team."
Added veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, "It makes everybody feel good. No one wants to see anybody have to sit out. We are a family and you don't want anybody to be sick or hurt. So it was great to see him out there."
McDonagh skated on a defense pairing with Raphael Diaz, who was recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack earlier on Monday, and had no limitations during practice. Afterwards head coach Alain Vigneault said it was unlikely McDonagh could return to the lineup for Game Three of the team's best-of-seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, though he did not completely shut the door on the possibility.
"Doubtful," Vigneault answered when asked if McDonagh could play Tuesday, before adding, "But stranger things have happened."
The Rangers have played five straight games without their captain--the final three of the regular season and the first two of the playoffs. Rookie Brady Skjei has taken McDonagh's spot in the lineup those five contests, but the entire defensive group has stepped up in his absence, as well that of Dan Girardi, who missed Game Two of the Penguin series and the final two contests of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.
"You don't really replace Mac you just do your best to fill in the minutes," stated Klein. who played 23:20 in Game Two after logging 18:28 in the series opener. "I think the guys have done a great job filling in and doing what they could to contribute to the team. Everyone has that little bit of extra pressure, but that's good, it's the playoffs. We've handled it just fine, so far."
Vigneault said on Monday he remains unsure of which six defensemen will dress for Game Three on Tuesday night.