SUNRISE, Fla. — With righty Dan Girardi to be sidelined a little longer, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh may remain on his off-side, the right side, with lefty Marc Staal, on the first defensive pair.
“I would say it’s more game-by-game,” coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday. “It’s the second time we’re put them together in the last little while and both times, I’ve liked their game, thought they were effective, for the most part against [Tampa’s] top line. It’s new for Ryan but he’s adjusted.” McDonagh played a team-high 26:28 on Monday.
Girardi had been partnered with McDonagh, and then lefty Brendan Smith, obtained from Detroit at the trade deadline, played two games with McDonagh. But on Tuesday, Smith was again paired with Nick Holden.
Shut down to allow a nasty ankle wound to heal, Girardi “is coming along real well,” Vigneault said. “They’ve using a vacuum to close the hole. He’s close to starting to skate again, probably three to five days.” He missed his fifth straight game.
The news was not positive for defenseman Kevin Klein (back spasms), who “is not getting any better. They have him on hold now.” Klein has been out since Feb. 21 and missed his eighth straight game.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t often critique wins, but in his postgame remarks after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Panthers, he underscored two areas of concern.
“I thought five on five, our game was good tonight, offensively and defensively,” he said. “I wasn’t crazy about our special teams: Our power play again tonight (0-for-4) came up short.” The slide has reached 0-for-26. “And our penalty-killing (4-for-5) wasn’t very good, their power play had some great looks and our best player on the penalty-killing was our goaltender.”
Grabner still sidelined
Although Michael Grabner is improving from hip/oblique soreness, it’s unlikely that he’ll play in the final game of this trip against the Hurricanes on Thursday. Grabner sat for the fourth straight game. “There’s an outside chance . . . but unless he’s 100 percent, we’re probably going to wait,” Vigneault said.
Vigneault: Dangerous hit
After another look at Tampa forward Gabriel Dumont’s hit that drove Steven Kampfer’s head into the boards in the first period on Monday that only drew a boarding minor, Vigneault said: “Dangerous hit . . . a cross-check up high, three or four feet from the boards, probably deserved more [than 2 minutes].” Kampfer played Tuesday in Tampa and earned his first assist of the season on Chris Kreider’s first-period goal.