MONTREAL -- Officially, there still is no update on the Rangers' No. 1 defenseman, on injured reserve since Oct. 5 with a concussion. "I have no report on Marc Staal," coach John Tortorella said.

In Staal's extended absence, Tortorella again acknowledged the impressive work of Ryan McDonagh, pressed into an average of 25 minutes a game and working alongside Staal's usual partner, Dan Girardi, as well as the second defensive pair of Michael Del Zotto and Michael Sauer.

"It's been pushing along really quickly for Ryan," Tortorella said, "because of the injuries on our back end, and he's handled himself well." And Del Zotto, "from day one of this year, you can see he's improved. He and Michael Sauer work very well as a pair, so it bodes well for us if [Del Zotto] keeps improving.

"Maybe somewhere along the line we'll get healthy on our back end; it will certainly solidify us even more."

Before Saturday night's game, McDonagh, Girardi, Sauer and Del Zotto had a combined plus-20 during the Rangers' seven-game winning streak.

Brad Richards on temporary linemate Sean Avery, who scored two goals in his last two games entering Saturday night: "Obviously, Sean is skating. Sean can play the game if he concentrates on that, and I'm sure he will with me. When he wants to skate, hold on to pucks, it creates things."

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Tortorella on Avery: "The last couple of games, Sean has skated, chased the puck. His biggest strength is his forecheck and his skating."

The well-traveled Rangers entered Saturday night's passport-required game with a 4-3 record on foreign soil. After losing the season's first two games in Stockholm, against Los Angeles and Anaheim, they went 4-1 in previous Canadian stops--winning at Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa and losing at Edmonton.

Their only other road games were in that far-away land of Uniondale, Long Island. (One win, one loss.)