Injured Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was on the ice during Wednesday's practice at the MSG Training Center, wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, but he will miss his fourth straight game Thursday night when the Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.
That declaration was made by Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault after practice. Vigneault added that it was "50/50" whether or not McDonagh would play in the regular season finale up in Montreal against the Canadiens on Saturday night. The head coach had stated previously that the team's top defenseman, who injured his shoulder more than a week ago in a game vs. the Canucks, would not play before the playoffs unless he was 100 percent healthy.
Still it was a good sign that McDonagh skated for a second straight day, after taking to the ice to participate in Tuesday's optional morning skate at The Garden. Though he was unable to tale part in any of the contact drills Wednesday, McDonagh did pair with extra d-man Justin Falk on drills and rushes which did not require contact.
By the looks of the line combinations--and hearing the coach's words after practice--it would appear that no lineup changes will be made for the Buffalo game following the Blueshirts' 4-1 win over the Hurricanes Tuesday night. Vigneault conformed that rookie Jesper Fast would again be in the lineup after playing nearly 14 minutes on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin on Tuesday.
"After the first period it really seemed like they really got more comfortable with one another," stated Vigneault. "Both Hags and Quickie (Fast) were using their speed, and Brad was moving his feet, moving the puck, and playing fast, generating some really good scoring chances. With Hags' speed and Quickie's speed, and finding Brad coming into the play late, that could be something real effective."
Henrik Lundqvist will make his fifth consecutive start in goal on Thursday. Since March 1st he will have now started 19 of the team's last 21 games. He has surrendered just seven goals in his last four games.
However there is the chance Cam Talbot could make the start Saturday night in Montreal, where earlier this season he shut out the Canadiens 1-0 on November 16th. Vigneault said it was "50/50" whether or not Lundqvist would start the season finale in Montreal.
Should he not play Saturday Lundqvist will have about a week off between starts before the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway next Wednesday or Thursday.
When asked Tuesday night if Lundqvist is ready for the playoffs, Vigneault replied with a smile, "Oh yeah...he's ready!"