Gilroy To Make Blueshirt Return Tonight

Matt Gilroy has not slipped on the Rangers sweater for a game since April 23, 2011---22 months ago. That night the Rangers lost to the Washington Capitals and were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, losing in five games. A few months later Gilroy signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, leaving the Rangers, his first NHL team.

Gilroy, though, is back with the Blueshirts---after finishing 2011-12 with Ottawa and then playing with the Connecticut Whale during the NHL work stoppage this fall. And tonight, after being a healthy scratch in each of the first six games of the season, Gilroy will be playing when the Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I just want to have fun and play to my abilities, get up in the play and use my skating," Gilroy explained after Thursday's optional morning skate at the MSG Training Center. "It's been hard (not playing), but there's not much to be frustrated when you look at it, realizing you are a New York Ranger, in the big picture."

The 28 year-old Gilroy appeared in 34 games with the Whale during the work stoppage and scored six goals---four on the power play, added nine assists, and totaled 15 points. Last season he played in 67 games combined with the Lightning and Senators, finishing with three goals and a career-high 20 points. He was held pointless in three games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals while playing with Ottawa.

In two seasons with the Rangers after signing as a free agent out of Boston University in the spring of 2009, Gilroy appeared in 127 games and scored seven goals while accumulating 26 points. The former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey's top player netted a goal in his first NHL playoff game with the Rangers in the spring of 2011.

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With Matt Gilroy playing on defense tonight, and Stu Bickel dressing as a forward on the fourth line, Steve Eminger will be the Rangers lone healthy scratch for this evening's home-ice tilt against the Penguins. He will be joined by injured team captain Ryan Callahan (subluxed left shoulder) and Chris Kreider (chipped bone in ankle) on the sidelines.

Kreider, who skate dlightly on his own Wednesday before practice, took part in Thursday's optional morning skate with eight other Blueshirts---including both goalies. The rookie also stayed late on the ice to do conditioning drills with Eminger under the watchful eye of assistant coach Mike Sullivan. 

What do you think of Matt Gilroy getting his first chance of the season tonight? Share your comments below.