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McDonagh Returns to Practice, Won't Play Saturday

Henrik Lundqvist Gets the Start Against Senators

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Ryan McDonagh took the first step to returning to the Rangers' lineup on Friday, but will not take the last.

The captain returned to practice but coach Alain Vigneault ruled him out for Saturday afternoon's game with the Senators in Ottawa, though he left the door open for Sunday's regular season finale against the Penguins at The Garden.

"I know Mac's not playing. He's had just one practice," Vigneault said. "He said to me he felt real good and he's been skating on his own, but he's definitely not going to play tomorrow."

McDonagh, who has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury, said after practice that he felt good and that his preference would be to play one of the two games, but that he was just relieved to be back at practice.

"I'm excited to be back with the group here," he said. "We're getting down to the wire here as far as what we want to do and where we want to be and we're progressing in the right direction."

McDonagh said the injury could be looked at as a positive for a player like him to get some rest before the postseason begins next week in Montreal. McDonagh leads the Rangers with 24:23 of ice time per game this season, which is nearly four minutes more than Nick Holden, who is second on the squad.

"It's good for everything," he said. "Recharge the mind here hopefully for a long run. Intense hockey and physically for sure, letting the body heal up. We have enough time here with some games and practices before the playoff games start. We're able to get back out there and feel good on the ice."
Vigneault did announce Henrik Lundqvist as the team's starter Saturday in Ottawa, leaving Antti Raanta for Sunday against Pittsburgh.

After that? Vigneault did not disclose the rest of his lineup for the Senators.

"I'm close to finalizing it," Vigneault said when asked about his lineup, adding he was waiting to speak with the team's medical staff about the availability for several players. 

Vigneault said there will be players not taking the trip to Ottawa, and those who don't will skate in New York Saturday and "we'll see where we go for Sunday."

One player definitely making the trip is Taylor Beck, whom the Rangers called up Friday after acquiring him from Edmonton at the Trade Deadline.

Vigneault admitted to not knowing anything about Beck, who has 13 points in 14 games since joining Hartford, but said he is an option for Saturday.
Most of Friday's practice was devoted to the penalty kill, an area that the Rangers said must be a strength of theirs to have success once the postseason begins next week.

"We always talk about the special teams and the importance of winning the special teams battle," said Derek Stepan. "Keeping the puck out of your net is a huge thing in the playoffs, and the penalty kill is something that's - if you ask anybody that's had success in the playoffs, you need to have a good PK."

Vigneault said the team is looking to "fine tune" that and the power play over this final pair of regular season games.

"Probably a little bit more attention to detail in certain areas," he said of the practice. "Hopefully it's going to pay off down the road here."

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