GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Rangers captain and top-pair defenseman Ryan McDonagh will miss Wednesday’s game against the Hurricanes in Carolina with an abdominal strain, a nagging issue that could keep him sidelined longer.
McDonagh has appeared in all 21 games, averaging more than 23 minutes a night, including more than five minutes per game on special teams. He has played through the “lingering” issue, coach Alain Vigneault said after Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s something that has been there for a little bit, doesn’t seem to be getting better right now . . . so our doctors are checking it out,” said Vigneault, who acknowledged that the problem was why McDonagh was given practice days off for “maintenance” or treatment in recent weeks, including Oct. 18, Oct. 24 and Nov. 1.
Asked if McDonagh could play Friday against the Red Wings, Vigneault said: “No idea. I just know it’s been bothering him . . . our docs have been on top of it. We just want to double-check things. We’ll know more (Wednesday).”
Injuries have not been a factor for the Rangers, with the fewest man-games lost to injuries (eight) in the NHL.
Without McDonagh, who blocked three shots in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Ottawa, defenseman Brendan Smith was moved up into his spot with Nick Holden. Steven Kampfer will move into the lineup on the third pair with Marc Staal. Kevin Hayes will replace McDonagh on the second power-play unit.
“Mac plays anywhere from 22 minutes to 28 minutes, and they’re important minutes,” Vigneault said. “So many guys are always looking to get more minutes, here’s an opportunity to play some more important minutes. I’m expecting our d-group to step up.”
The second pair of Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk also is expected to see more time against the Hurricanes (9-6-4), who have collected points in eight of their last 10 games.
“Mac’s a warrior, as you know” said Smith, who played with McDonagh at the University of Wisconsin. “They’ve decided that it’s best to keep him out so he can be ready down the line. So we’ve all got to be working smarter, not harder.”
At least 15 minutes of practice was spent on power play entries, which has been the key reason the Blueshirts (10-9-2) are 0 for 9 with the man-advantage in the last three games and dropped from third-ranked in the league to sixth. “We haven’t lost confidence,” said Shattenkirk, who quarterbacks the first unit. “We know what we’re doing wrong. We need to be clean entering the zone. Once we’re in, we’ve had some opportunities, made some good plays.” . . . The Rangers, who have won seven of nine, are 2-5 on the road . . . Henrik Lundqvist, coming off his second shutout of the season, will start his 10th straight game . . . Center David Desharnais will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.