Dylan McIlrath of the Rangers skates against the New Jersey...

Dylan McIlrath of the Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils during a rookie game at the Prudential Center. (September 23, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Hard-nosed defenseman Dylan McIlrath was on the ice Monday for another Rangers prospect camp, hoping to avoid an injury similar to the one that detoured his career 13 months ago.

The 6-5 McIlrath, picked 10th overall in the 2010 draft, dislocated his left knee in a collision with Kyle Jean. When he returned after surgery, still in pain, the Winnipeg native played 45 games for AHL Hartford. He had five assists and 125 penalty minutes, engaging in 13 fights with players who were testing him.

"I knew I had to step up a few times if I was going to play that way," said McIlrath, 21. "I'm not going to change my style, so I'm going to get asked [to drop the gloves]. I'm going to be that type of player. I think after your first year, you have respect in the league a bit more; I'm hoping that's the case."

The Rangers hope McIlrath's physical game will be an asset this season and beyond, and he believes he has "a legitimate shot'' to make the club. "The knee is not an excuse anymore," he said. Usually, McIlrath said, "I'm a little bit of a slow starter, and by the end of the season, I'm usually peaking. Last year was different . . . I think I plateaued."

McIlrath's injury typically takes a year to heal, and he has been home training and rehabbing for a month. "There's been no setbacks and the strength has been getting better," he said. "Hopefully by [training] camp, I'll be 100 percent."

Notes & quotes: As expected, the Rangers sent qualifying offers to five restricted free agents -- Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Justin Falk -- as a jumping-off point for negotiations. Michael Sauer, still suffering from concussion symptoms, did not receive one . . . With the Garden transformation putting the Rangers on the road early in the season, it has been surmised that a trip to Vancouver, coach Alain Vigneault's former stamping ground and John Tortorella's new home, will be on the October schedule.

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