Rookie defenseman Brady Skjei was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Friday night as coach Alain Vigneault juggled his defense pairs. Only the top duo of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi stayed intact. Righty Adam Clendening dressed for his ninth game, playing alongside Marc Staal. Lefty Nick Holden, who had been playing the right side, was on the left of Kevin Klein.

The decision on whom to sit apparently was between Clendening and Skjei, who had played in all 35 games (1-14-15, plus-2). In eight games, Clendening is 0-3-3 and a plus-4. Clendening also practiced Thursday on the point on the power play, which was in an 0-for-10 funk.

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Buchnevich on the ice

Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich was on ice during the morning skate, wearing a red non-contact jersey. Mika Zibanejad, in street clothes, was tossing him passes from near the bench for one-timers. That is clearly a good sign for Buchnevich, who has had back issues. He began skating again after a setback in early December, when he was shut down after an on-ice session with skills coach Mark Ciaccio. Buchnevich has not played since Nov. 12.

Lighter schedule

Compared with October, November and December, January and February will feature more off days and far less travel.

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The NHL-mandated five-day break — with no practices permitted — is Jan. 8-12, and the All-Star break also is five days, from Jan. 26-30. So in January, the Rangers will play six home games and only five road games, with one (Philadelphia) via train. In February, there are only six road games, including New Jersey, Brooklyn and Boston. March will be tough: 15 games in 29 days, including West Coast and Florida/Carolina trips.