PITTSBURGH — When healthy, the Rangers have perhaps the most experienced group of defensemen in the NHL playoffs. But healthy they are not.
Ryan McDonagh remains out with what is believed to be a fractured bone in his right hand and Dan Girardi joined him on the injured list Friday. When asked whether Girardi was suffering from an upper or lower body injury, coach Alain Vigneault said, “just the whole thing.”
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Brady Skjei got the call for Game 1, making his playoff debut. It appears he will be joined for Game 2 on Saturday by another young defenseman, Dylan McIlrath.
The 6-5, 236-pounder appeared in 34 games this season, scoring two goals and adding two assists. He was in and out of the lineup for much of January and February, then missed 10 games in March because of an injury, followed by three more healthy scratches. He played the final three regular-season games.
“The last stretch of games there I really felt comfortable playing a lot of minutes,” McIlrath said. “It was just a great year all around and in the playoffs. I’m just hungry to help the team. It had been a while, especially coming off an injury, just to get the confidence in my body and it was a nice sendoff into the playoffs.”
What did McIlrath learn from watching the Rangers’ 5-2 loss in Game 1 in street clothes?
“It was a very fast-paced game, for sure,” he said. “Pittsburgh comes at you very hard and will make you pay with your transition game. It was nice to have a spectator’s view for the first one so if I ever do get the call I’ll have a good idea of what to expect.”
But McIlrath said he is ready to go.
“If we’re down [in a game] I don’t play as much, but for me it’s just to stay ready and be mentally into it,” he said. “It was a good learning experience the last couple of years in Hartford where I was playing every situation.”