Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, recovering from an abdominal strain that kept him sidelined for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday, skated with the team and is targeting Friday’s game against the Carolina Panthers for his return to the lineup.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” McDonagh said after joining the morning skate at Madison Square Garden. The defenseman, who has 12 assists in 21 games, was shut down after the nagging injury worsened during the Nov. 19 game against Ottawa.
“At times, it felt like I couldn’t shoot as well, or be as explosive skating, which is a big strength of mine,” said McDonagh, who had skated on his own on Monday. Without those first few explosive strides, he said, “you start thinking and compensating and trying to play around it.”
McDonagh took three practices off in October and early November, and said there “was never any point until that last game” that he considered sitting out. “We were trying to work through it and it started to get worse and affect some other things.
“It was to just try to be smart here, with the time we have at this point in the season.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said he wanted McDonagh to participate in a normal practice, probably Thursday, before deciding to move forward. “We’ll see how he responds.”
McDonagh skated with center David Desharnais on the extra defense pairing, and Vigneault confirmed that Boo Nieves was back in the middle of the fourth line, with Jesper Fast on the right and Paul Carey on the left.
n Vigneault awaits news on Zibanejad injury
Vigneault did not provide many postgame details on No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad’s absence from the lineup beyond what the team described as an upper-body injury. “Mika tried to go in warmups and couldn’t. We’ll know more tomorrow.” The Rangers are off Wednesday, and are scheduled to practice Thursday.
n Luck of the Panthers
Panthers coach Bob Boughner said “we got a little luck on our side” when the NHL’s Situation Room upheld an initial no-goal call on Kevin Hayes’ shot that would have tied it at 4 in the second period. The ruling was that Rick Nash interfered with goalie James Reimer. “I watched it a few times and I think we might have gotten a little bit of a break there,” Boughner said, “There was initial contact before the incidental contact and I think that’s what they were concentrating on more than anything.”
n Desharnais line produces
The Desharnais line with Chris Kreider (2-1-3) and Pavel Buchnevich (1-2-3) produced nine points (three goals and six assists). Desharnais recorded three assists. The performance after the last-minute start, said Kreider, shows “he’s a true professional.”
n Lavender fights cancer
On Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Rangers wore lavender jerseys and used similarly colored stick tape and special pucks in warmups to be auctioned for the cause.