GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Veteran Dan Girardi's early season struggles prompted a demotion from the first defense pair for the last three games, and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wants him to work through it.
So he'll continue to use Kevin Klein with Ryan McDonagh as the No. 1 pair in Philadelphia on Saturday. Vigneault does not plat to give Girardi, an alternate captain who has been plagued by turnovers and poor decisions, a game or two off in favor of rookie Dylan McIlrath.
"Not at this time," Vigneault said after practice Friday. "The simple answer is that Kevin was playing so much better than Dan, we just made that switch. For whatever reason, Dan's overall game, especially with the puck, has not been efficient as he's been in the past. He's working at it. I know he's watching a lot of video in areas where he has a little more time to make a play. Right now, Klein's a little more ahead of him as far as performance. He's making better overall plays with and without the puck."
Girardi, 31, now paired with Keith Yandle, had surgery in early June to reduce the swelling in his left ankle bursa, and also was rehabbing from an MCL sprain incurred in Game 4 of last season's Eastern Conference Final. "It's not an excuse, but it is a reality," said Vigneault. "Those guys [including Marc Staal and McDonagh, who had ankle and foot injuries] went through a long recovery and they've got to work themselves back into the players they're supposed to be."
Henrik Lundqvist will start his second straight game ... Derek Stepan, who had a wisdom tooth and two screws removed from when his jaw was broken in the 2014 playoffs, skipped practice after playing in Thursday's game. "The pain was real high during the night," Vigneault said. He'll be fine for tomorrow."