Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against the Philadelphia Flyers during...

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh skates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When Ryan McDonagh was offered the role of captain of the Rangers by coach Alain Vigneault on Sunday, he immediately called his parents, Sean and Patty.

"They were very proud and just very honored and humbled, like myself, to realize what an opportunity this is," McDonagh said Tuesday. "They didn't praise me too much," the 25-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota, native recalled them saying. "And now you've got to continue to work and get better; now, the expectations are even higher."

To his credit, McDonagh, named the team's 27th captain, has continually raised his game on the ice and in the locker room since being acquired from Montreal in June 2009, and is well aware of representing the tradition of the Original Six franchise. "It's a great responsibility," he said.

Players and coaches have said that McDonagh, who was set to be captain of the University of Wisconsin Badgers before signing a contract with the Rangers in 2010, is a terrific guy off the ice, but is all business when he gets to the rink.

"He shows everyone how much he wants to get better and compete," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "When he got here he was a quiet guy. I think he's getting more and more vocal . . . but there's some moments when you just have to lead by example."

Defenseman Dan Girardi, who is paired with McDonagh, said, "Mac was one of our best players all season," when the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. "He always had the legs and now he has a little more confidence with the puck." McDonagh scored a career-high 14 goals and 47 points in 77 games.

Vigneault, beginning his second season behind the Rangers' bench, said McDonagh doesn't need to change a thing with a letter on his sweater.

"He embodies the core values we feel the captain has to have," Vigneault said. "He's one of our hardest-working players, but probably the most important thing is the respect he has from coaches and management. We want him to be who he is."

McDonagh said he has learned a lot about himself during his time in New York, and showed a glimpse of athlete's superstition when he talked about "being able to experience the playoff runs we've had every year I've been here -- knock on wood."

McDonagh will have a quartet of alternate captains, who will rotate for home and away games, including fellow defensemen Girardi and Marc Staal, who wore "A"s last season, his former Badgers teammate Derek Stepan, and veteran Martin St. Louis, a former captain in Tampa Bay.

"Great choice," said St. Louis, 39. "Nah, I didn't give him any advice. He's a mature guy for his age."

Notes & quotes: Center Chris Mueller was reassigned to Hartford, cutting the active roster to the required 23 players, including forward Kevin Hayes. Stepan (fractured fibula) is on long-term injured reserve.

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