GREENBURGH, N.Y. — As a youngster in St. Paul, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh recalls the “skills days” hosted by the Minnesota Wild to determine which players might qualify for the annual NHL All-Star skills competition in shooting accuracy and for the hardest shot.
“I remember going to watch that and loved trying to emulate that on the ice in the days after,” said McDonagh, who also attended the competition in February 2004, when the All-Star weekend was held at Xcel Energy Center.
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McDonagh, now 26, will be part of the annual event, having been named Wednesday as an All-Star for the first time in his six-year career, and the only Blueshirt included in the festivities in Nashville on Jan. 30 and 31.
“It’ll definitely be pretty surreal when you see the jersey and being in the same locker room with the top players,” said McDonagh, who was a little surprised by the selection, shyly acknowledging that he might have to change some plans he had made for that week.
“It’s a huge honor,” said McDonagh, one of three defensemen on the 11-man Metropolitan Division squad that will compete against the other divisions in a 3-on-3 tournament rather than an actual game.“I’m excited to represent the division and the Rangers. There could’ve been a handful of guys in this team that were well-deserving. I’m going to try to soak it in for sure, you never know if you’re going to get one in your career.”
The tournament, based on the league’s new overtime format, is offense-oriented. “I know five minutes of it in the regular season is sometimes a whirlwind,” he said. “I can’t imagine what 20 minutes of it is going to be like. You try to make the right reads, join [the rushes] if you can. They want to see goals happen so I think they’ll be some high-risk plays.”
Henrik Lundqvist was not surprised to be bypassed. Washington’s Braden Holtby and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider are the Metro’s goalies. “It’s always a pride thing [but] I didn’t expect to go, didn’t deserve to go,” said Lundqvist, who had a very strong start to the season, but sagged. “The break is a good opportunity to rest, get away for a bit and come back for a really strong push.”
“Given the way he played” with a goal and assist in his New York debut during Tuesday’s 6-2 defeat of the Stars, coach Alain Vigneault said Jayson Megna would definitely dress against the Capitals on Saturday afternoon. Megna subbed for Chris Kreider, whose right hand was cut in a fight against Florida. Vigneault said if Kreider, who participated in drills Wednesday, is deemed available after the next practice, on Friday, he could return Saturday. If Kreider and Megna play, the scratches are likely Emerson Etem and another forward . . . Dan Girardi (knee), who was aggressive and effective when paired with McDonagh against the Stars, rested. He should practice Friday and play Saturday, Vigneault said.