GREENBURGH, N.Y. — This isn’t the way Rangers coach David Quinn wants to make decisions about which six of his eight defensemen to play on a daily basis. But when Freddie Claesson left Saturday’s practice halfway through because of an upper body injury, Quinn may have gotten some clarity on his pairings in front of Henrik Lundqvist for Sunday night’s Garden game against Calgary.
Claesson has started the last four games after sitting out the first three. He hadn’t skated since the Rangers’ last game against Washington on Wednesday.
“We’ll see (Sunday) how he’s feeling,” Quinn said. “Nothing longterm. Just something we have to watch.”
One defenseman’s upper body pain could be another defenseman’s ice-time gain. Adam McQuaid, a healthy scratch the last two games, said he’s “hopefully” going to be back in the lineup on Sunday.
“It’s one of those things, obviously, that you can ask any guy and he’s going to say he wants to play,” McQuaid said. “At the same time, you want to be winning games and guys are playing well. You understand that situation. I don’t know. I think everyone wants to play, but at the end of the day it’s about supporting one another and competing and working hard in practice. Different guys have different opportunities. You’ve got to be ready.”
The Rangers acquired the veteran McQuaid from Boston on Sept. 11. McQuaid, who turned 32 on Oct. 12, started the first five games before sitting the sixth so Quinn could use Neal Pionk against Colorado on Tuesday. The Rangers won, 3-2, in a shootout.
It was supposed to be a one-game thing, but Quinn liked what he saw and kept McQuaid out the next night against Washington. The Rangers lost that game in overtime, 4-3.
“I think the guys played very well the last few games,” McQuaid said. “Finding chemistry with different guys. There’s always room for improvement and Hank’s bailed us out on different occasions.”
Coming over to a new team less than a month before the season opener after playing nine years in Boston wasn’t an easy transition for McQuaid. But he said it’s getting easier.
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “Starting to kind of get settled a little bit. It takes a little bit of time, but everyone’s really been very helpful with the process.”
One defenseman who should be sure he’s going to play on Sunday is Pionk, who had three assists on Wednesday, including two on the power play.
“He does a great job getting the puck through to the net,” Quinn said. “He doesn’t try to make the difficult pass. He’s making the right pass. He’s not overthinking. It’s amazing what happens. You just keep making the right play, the opportunities are going to present themselves.”