Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) looks on during a game...

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) looks on during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 16, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Injured Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh has taken the first strides toward returning.

Dressed in a baseball cap and Rangers track suit, McDonagh, who has been sidelined since Nov. 1 with a separated shoulder, skated at Madison Square Garden Wednesday for the first time since taking a hit from Winnipeg's Evander Kane in the first period of a 1-0 shootout loss.

For 25 minutes, McDonagh skated and wristed dozens of pucks into an empty net at one end of the deserted rink, long before the Rangers hosted the Flyers. "Feeling good, coming along," McDonagh told Newsday when he came off the ice.

McDonagh, who was averaging 23:33 minutes per game and had three assists in 10 games, will have to practice in a non-contact jersey and then be cleared for contact. So he likely will miss another three or four games. It's possible that he could return in the back-to-backs against the Flyers on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29.

Back KOs Stempniak

Winger Lee Stempniak was scratched with lower-back stiffness. Coach Alain Vigneault said he did not anticipate a long-term issue. Jesper Fast stepped in on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass.

Plans up in the air

The Rangers are planning to practice on Thursday at 1 p.m. then fly to Buffalo. By 11:30 Wednesday night, they had not heard if Friday's game against the Sabres will be postponed because of the snowy weather. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in Buffalo.

Ice chips

Kevin Klein is tied for first with five other NHL defensemen in game-winning goals with two. Asked if he knew Klein could provide such offense, coach Alain Vigneault said: "What do you think?" . . . Former Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto played in his first game at the Garden since being traded to Nashville before signing with the Flyers.

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