Only five Rangers were on ice Sunday for the team's optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden, but the fact that the injured Ryan McDonagh was one of the players participating is worth noting.
It marked McDonagh's third consecutive day on the ice as he works his way back from a concussion suffered last Saturday when punched in the face by Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds. The best sign was that after pushing himself hard in his first team practice on Saturday, McDonagh felt good enough to take part in the optional skate on Sunday.
"It's coming along," head coach Alain Vigneault said Sunday morning. "The only thing he's not cleared to do at this point is contact. He's pushing hard on the ice. He's pushing hard in the gym. He's been allowed to start lifting again. So the next step is to get cleared for contact and then see how he responds to that."
McDonagh took part in a series of shooting drills against goaltender Antti Raanta on Sunday and then stayed on the ice working on his conditioning with assistant coach Darryl Williams. He was joined at the optional skate by Raanta, Dan Girardi, Derick Brassard, and Kevin Hayes.
"He looks pretty good out there," Brassard said of McDonagh. "I think the main thing is to see him smiling and being around the team. He's the captain and leader of our team, so I think it's important for him to be around."
Girardi and Brassard had taken Saturday as maintenance days, but both will be in the lineup for Sunday's rematch with the Flyers. Brassard told reporters this morning that he just "needed an extra day" to let his body recuperate from the long grind of the season.
"I feel great, but I've played a lot of games and just felt like I needed an extra day (yesterday)," explained Brassard, who is second on the team with 40 points. "It's nothing serious. I just needed one day to reset. I just want to be fresh."