Dan Girardi returns to practice two days after injuring right foot
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Dan Girardi had been on his knees, grimacing, unable to even crawl, and waving for assistance. It was the waning minutes of regulation during a 3-0 loss in Montreal on Saturday and the Rangers defenseman had just blocked a rocket from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban with his right foot. The impact could be heard from high in the stands.
"I never really felt like that before," said Girardi, who had to be helped off the ice. "The pain . . . It felt kind of weird, coming up my leg."
That was a rare admission for the fearless Girardi, who was tied for fifth in the league in blocked shots last season and remarkably has missed only four games in five full seasons with the Rangers.
Girardi's X-rays were negative, not surprising for those who believe he is secretly infused with adamantium, the steel alloy popularized in "X-Men." He was back practicing Monday after a day off. "Just a matter of icing it down," he said. "Turns out everything's fine."
But all is not well with the Rangers, who have lost three straight (0-2-1) and have scored only five goals in their past four games. They've lost a total of 37 manpower games to injury.
The team's leading scorer, Rick Nash, who has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury -- believed to be a concussion -- and top-pair defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was smashed into the glass face-first from behind by Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, did not practice Monday. They are questionable for Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden.
The growing list of Rangers needing rest or repairs is not going to alter the team's basic philosophy, Girardi said. "It's just a matter of playing with confidence," he said. "Sometimes it creeps in. You're a little in between on a play; going for a puck, you're just a little off. You're not just like, 'OK, I'm going to go there and make that play.' "
After two losses in Canada on the road trip and with a four-game homestand beginning, Girardi said the team is eager to "right the ship. Have a little fun, play hard, block shots, hit guys, get pucks on net, all the stuff that was going for us last year."
The positive news is that forward Darroll Powe -- who missed three games with a concussion suffered Feb. 17 when he flipped over Washington's Matt Hendricks and hit his head on the ice -- practiced for the first time and was deemed "good to go" by coach John Tortorella. And defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who missed Saturday's loss after getting hip-checked by Ottawa's Marc Methot and limping out of Thursday's game, made it through the 48-minute session.
Arron Asham (back spasms) also has missed the last two games and didn't practice.
The absence of McDonagh, if lengthy, is as worrisome as that of Nash. The second-year defenseman left bleeding after Pacioretty's hit and did not return. Pacioretty, checked hard by McDonagh five minutes earlier, received a minor penalty for boarding. The NHL, after a hearing via phone, decided Sunday that no further discipline or fine was appropriate.
"That's not my call," said Tortorella, who clearly was agitated Saturday and wasn't sure McDonagh will play Tuesday night. Asked if he was pleased with the response by his players, who did not immediately challenge Pacioretty, Tortorella said: "Our team was fine. We are trying to win a hockey game. I have full faith in the toughness of our team and how we're going to handle those types of situations."
Defenseman Marc Staal was firmer. "You don't forget about things like that," he said. "We'll play them again."