Ryan McDonagh stays on road trip with Rangers

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against the Chicago Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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DENVER - Injured defenseman Ryan McDonagh flew here Wednesday with the Rangers, who wrap up a four-city Western trip Thursday night against the Avalanche, but how much the team's best defenseman plays in the final five games of the regular season is unclear.

McDonagh, who was wearing a sling on his left arm when leaving Rogers Arena in Vancouver after being drilled from behind by Alexandre Burrows into the end boards with 44 seconds to play in the Blueshirts' 3-1 win, is expected to miss the Avs game. He dropped to his knees in pain, with his left arm tucked into his body, suggesting a possible shoulder problem, before skating off.

After coach Alain Vigneault told Newsday late Tuesday that McDonagh would make the trip to Denver rather than head directly to New York, a team spokesman said the initial diagnosis was "not serious." That likely indicates that no surgery is needed, so the club appears to have dodged a bullet.

The team did not provide any specifics or updates on his condition Wednesday, but management likely will give McDonagh, 24, whatever time necessary to heal before the playoffs, which begin in two weeks. McDonagh is a physical, speedy blueliner who averages a team-high 24:49 per game and has 14 goals and 43 points in 77 games,

Any combination of three points gained by the Rangers, who have 90 points, or lost by the Capitals, in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, will clinch a playoff berth.

But the Blueshirts would like to finish second in the Metropolitan Division and secure home-ice advantage in the first round. The third-place Flyers are three points back, but have two games in hand.

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John Moore, who sustained a concussion against the Blue Jackets on March 21 and has missed six games, has been practicing and will presumably step in for McDonagh.

Coach Alain Vigneault said Monday that he wanted Moore to have one more practice before he decided whether to have him rejoin the lineup. Moore is a lefty who has played on the third d-pair with Kevin Klein.

McDonagh's absence will assuredly weaken a shuffled defense. Marc Staal likely will move up to join Dan Girardi on the top duo against the Avalanche. Moore could play on the second pair with Anton Stralman. Klein and Raphael Diaz would round out the pairings. The Blueshirts' special teams also will be affected. McDonagh averages 2:52 short-handed and 2:53 on the power play.

"My intention wasn't to be dirty or hurt the guy," said Burrows, who received a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct. There was no immediate word on whether the NHL would suspend Burrows.

Notes & quotes: Forward J.T. Miller, a healthy scratch the last two games, was assigned to Hartford.

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