Rangers Practice Report; McDonagh practices in full contact jersey, defensive decisions to be made

Bobby Bevilacqua

ryan mcdonagh profile good pic 12-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Following a few drills and practices on his own, captain Ryan McDonagh skated in a full contact jersey alongside all of his teammates, marking the first time he’s returned to the ice with everyone since blocking a shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets two weeks ago.

McDonagh was ahead of schedule, and his return was a surprise to his teammates and his coaches. He skated on a defensive pair with Raphael Diaz, who was recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack, and he had no limitations.

After practice, head coach Alain Vigneault said that McDonagh returning for Game 3 tomorrow night is, “doubtful, but stranger things have happened.”Raphael Diaz, 30, has skated in 37 games with Hartford this season, scoring six goals with 15 assists for 21 points along with a +11 rating. He played under Vigneault in Vancouver, and also skated in 11 regular season games and four playoff games with the Rangers back in 2014, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

His arrival was somewhat surprising considering the fact that Dylan McIlrath had slotted in to the injured Dan Girardi’s spot. McIlrath had a few shaky shifts early on, but settled in nicely after that. However, VIgneault only game him nine minutes of ice time in Game 2. Vigneault has given him a short leash at times, but would he go to the length of scratching McIlrath for Diaz?

Brady Skjei should play for the rest of the playoffs, because he has been absolutely fantastic through the first two games. He logged over 19 minutes of ice time in Game 2 and picked up his first career point, while also playing about 4:30 as a right side defenseman, which showed some versatility moving forward.

Dan Girardi definitely won’t factor into the decision for Game 3, as he was held out of practice again today and will not play.

Diaz only played 37 games this season in the AHL because of injuries, and that’s only two more games than McIlrath has played so far. When given the minutes, McIlrath has shown that he is capable of handling most defensive assignments, he’s an adequate puck mover and rarely makes many big mistakes. However, Diaz would give the Rangers another transition, puck-moving defenseman at the point, which could make the team more versatile on the blue line.

But Diaz has not faced NHL competition this season. And the Penguins are no laughing matter. Taking someone that has played against AHL talent for 37 games and throwing them into a playoff series with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin trying to score on you may not go so well. McIlrath is a bit more acclimated to the speed and style of an NHL game, despite less experience overall. Vigneault needs to trust his young defenseman in this situation, and give him more than nine minutes a night.

The Rangers play the Penguins tomorrow night at 7 PM.

Posted on April 18, 2016, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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