RALEIGH, North Carolina — Defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who skated in one game this season, “needs to play” and improve, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after McIlrath cleared waivers Friday and reported to the Hartford Wolf Pack.

“Just like in season-ending meetings we had with Dylan, we talked about improving his skills, improving his quickness,” Vigneault said, acknowledging that the defenseman, 24, was set back by the dislocated kneecap suffered in July 2012. “I talked to him and said if he clears, he’s got to work hard, work on his skill level, work on his puck skills, and that’s what he’s going to do. Anybody that knows him knows he’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic.”

The Rangers currently have about $3 million in salary-cap space, should they pursue a trade for a defenseman. Adam Clendening, the seventh defenseman, was a healthy scratch Friday.

Bruin banned for hit on Girardi

Bruins forward David Pastrnak, whose illegal shoulder hit to Dan Girardi’s head on Wednesday was punished by a two-minute minor penalty, was suspended for two games after a hearing by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. The department said Pastrnak’s high hit was “avoidable” and the head was “the main point of contact . . . rather than staying low.”

Vigneault applauded the decision. “Initially, when watching it, we didn’t feel it was the type of hit that the game wants,” he said, “and the league took a stand.”

Girardi, who was decked as he reached high for a puck at the red line, went through concussion protocol, later returned to the game and started on Friday.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Kreider remains out

Chris Kreider missed his third straight game with neck spasms, but is skating hard, Vigneault said. He’s not scheduled to play against Tampa at home on Sunday. The team is not practicing Saturday, and Vigneault wants the forward to participate in a full practice before returning to the lineup.