MONTREAL - The Rangers had seven Americans in the lineup for Thursday night's 1-0 victory over the Canucks: Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Matt Gilroy and three rookies, Derek Stepan, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh.

Stepan and Sauer have been with the team all season, and McDonagh, 21, a defenseman from St. Paul, Minn., is making a case to stick around. Summoned from the AHL on Jan. 3 when Michael Del Zotto was sent down, the former first-rounder will dress for the fifth straight game Saturday night against the Canadiens in a building where, if not for a trade, he might well be playing regularly.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Canadiens chose McDonagh with the 12th overall selection in the 2007 draft, and he attended the University of Wisconsin. He represented the U.S. three times, in the 2009 World Championships and twice in the Under-18 Worlds, coming back with two silver medals. The former "Mr. Hockey" (Minnesota's top high-school player in 2007) was acquired by the Rangers, along with Chris Higgins and Pavel Valentenko, in the Scott Gomez trade in June 2009.

Coach John Tortorella made no promises when McDonagh, a teammate of Stepan's at Wisconsin, was called up. "He has grown as a player, and one we are very interested in," he said. When Michal Rozsival was sidelined with sore ribs, McDonagh made his debut in Dallas on Jan. 7 and has remained as the No. 6 defenseman, with Rozsival traded to Phoenix.

"The big motto on this team is to play hard, block shots, be physical and that's right up my alley," said McDonagh, who has averaged about 11 minutes in his first four games, recorded four hits and blocked four shots.

"I was watching McDonagh very closely just to see what his mindset is in a game like this," Tortorella said after the win over the NHL-leading Canucks. "That was important for us as a team, not to go in and see what type of game this is going to be because of their record . . . And especially for a young guy like that, you want to see how he'd play. And he had the right type of strut in his game, as far as closing the neutral zone off."