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Girardi Out Against Predators With Foot Injury

Holden Moves Up With McDonagh, Clendening Back in the Lineup

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Defenseman Dan Girardi will miss tonight's game against the Nashville Predators due to swelling on his foot following a blocked shot in Tuesday's win over the Ducks.

"He blocked a couple shots last game but he took one off the foot and it opened up," head coach Alain Vigneault said after the team's morning skate ahead of tonight's tilt with Nashville. "He had to take a couple stitches so he's not going to play tonight but I'm hoping it won't be very long. The swelling's got to go down and he should be good."

In Girardi's absence, Nick Holden will move up to play with Ryan McDonagh on the team's top defensive pair. Vigneault praised the first year Ranger for his ability to play in all situations and on both sides of the ice.

"Every time we talk about Nick since he's been here, the first word that comes to my mind is dependability. He's been very dependable, steady, high percentage. Like any player he'll make the odd mistake, but I like his dependability when he doesn't have the puck and I like his dependability when he has the puck. 

"He'll make the play that's in front of him," Vigneault continued. "If it's an easy, early outlet he'll use it. If it's not there and it's a flip off the glass, he'll get it out. He's been effective for us. Out of all our left handed Ds - other than Mac probably - he's the guy that's most comfortable [on the right]."

After serving as a healthy scratch the last four games, Adam Clendening will be paired alongside Marc Staal. As the team's seventh defenseman, Clendening has seen action in stretches at a time and is coming off his longest and most successful of the season.

The 24-year-old appeared in nine straight in the month of January and tallied five points, including his first goal as a Ranger on Jan. 7 at Columbus. He said he's looking to stick to his guns this time around.

"I had it going there for a bit," Clendening said. "Marc actually got healthy so I'm just looking to keep doing what I was doing. Move the puck quickly and be responsible and see if I can help create some offense."

Clendening has spent a large portion of his 5-on-5 ice time this season paired with Brady Skjei, with the two together for 102:31 of Clendening's 247:17 total. Second is 51:47 with Kevin Klein, followed by Staal with 42:23.

Clendening said Staal's game is very similar to Skjei's.

"They're actually pretty similar," Clendening said. "I think Marc does a good job of being responsible in his own end and making that first pass. I've played with him before in preseason and some games in the regular season. It's been pretty good with Marc and just looking to continue it."

Staal said no matter who a defenseman is paired with, they must communicate on the ice to have any success and develop chemistry.

"Whoever you're playing with, communication is the biggest thing," Staal said. "You've got to talk. He's a skilled player that could move the puck. The more I can talk to him and give him his options, he's capable of making those plays."

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Henrik Lundqvist will make his 10th straight start for the Rangers Thursday against the Predators. He is 6-1 and has allowed 11 goals - including a shutout - in his last seven decisions dating back to Jan. 19 at Toronto.

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No changes are expected up front. Here were the lines from the morning skate:

Jimmy Vesey - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller - Kevin Hayes - Michael Grabner

Pavel Buchnevich - Oscar Lindberg - Jesper Fast

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