PITTSBURGH — Ryan McDonagh knelt by the empty net with Dylan McIlrath and collected pucks, putting them in a black bag. The two had just finished drills under the watchful eye of coaches Wednesday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.

For more than 20 minutes, McDonagh, in full uniform and using his right hand to wield his stick, skated hard, hoping to return for this first-round series against the Penguins.

The Rangers captain, a critical part of the defense, was not made available to the media, but when he left the ice he was asked by Newsday if he was pleased with his recovery from the injury, believed to be a small fracture from blocking a shot against Columbus on April 4. “Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Making progress.”

VoteRangers vs. Penguins: Who has the edge?

McDonagh will presumably miss Game 2 of the series on Saturday afternoon, because he would have, at most, only one full practice before then. The Rangers are not skating here Thursday. There’s a two-day break before Game 3 in New York next Tuesday, and a one-day break before Game 4 on Thursday, April 21.

Swedish winger signed

Winger Malte Stromwall, 21, who had 25 goals and 42 points in 47 games for AIK in the Swedish Elite League, has agreed to a two-year, entry-level deal. According to generalfanager.com, the contract has an annual cap charge of $742,000, with a $92,000 signing bonus. Stromwall is a teammate of Robin Kovacs, 19, a third-round draft pick (62nd overall) for the Rangers last June.

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Blue notes

McIlrath and forward Oscar Lindberg were healthy scratches . . . In the Rangers’ locker room is a puzzle rendition of the team’s T-shirt with “FAMILY” in red lettering, with 16 pieces to be filled in . . . New cameras were placed in crossbars and in the boards at the blue lines to help in reviews of goals and offsides.