The Rangers will open the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs without their injured captain and top defenseman, Ryan McDonagh. Head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed as such Monday following practice at the MSG Training Center, saying that McDonagh is "day to day" and "will definitely not be able to start" the opening round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Vigneault added that he will take another day to decide which of his rookie defensemen--Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath--will replace McDonagh in the lineup. McIlrath, who was with the big club all season and appeared in 34 games with the Rangers, is the more experienced of the two, but Skjei--who played in seven NHL games this season including the final three of the regular season with the Blueshirts--is perhaps the more logical choice since he is a left-handed shot, as is McDonagh.
While there is no definite word on how long McDonagh could be missing from the Rangers lineup with an upper body injury suffered last Monday in a game against Columbus, the Rangers captain was out on the ice before the team practiced on Monday. He was joined by Dan Girardi, who missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper body injury. Like McDonagh, Girardi exited the ice when the full team came out to practice, though he returned later to take some shots on goal after the formal portion of practice had concluded.
Should Girardi feel no ill affects from skating Monday, he should join the Blueshirts on ice for Tuesday's practice before the club travels to Pittsburgh for Wednesday's series opener. Vigneault said he expects Girardi to be able to play in Game One, along with forwards Mats Zuccarello, Eric Staal and Viktor Stalberg, all of whom were dinged up recently.
Starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was ill Monday and unable to complete a full practice. He left the ice about 15 minutes into practice, but returned about 15 minutes later. After practicing a little while longer Lundqvist headed to the dressing room for good and was replaced in goal by one of the team's equipment managers.
Vigneault did not seem concerned afterwards, saying he expected Lundqvist to be healthy and ready to practice again on Tuesday.
Word out of Pittsburgh is that injured goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury practiced on Monday. Fleury, who was 35-17-6 with a 2.29 GAA in 58 appearances this season has not played since March 31 due to a concussion.
Also, defenseman Olli Maatta, who has not played since March 24, practiced Monday, while star center Evgeni Malkin skated on his own before practice. Malkin has missed the last 15 games with a lower body injury.