The Rangers will play their regular season finale Saturday in Montreal against the Canadiens, and it will be the fifth straight contest they will play without their top defenseman, Ryan McDonagh. However McDonagh, who took part in the morning skate at the Bell Centre, declared himself healthy and "ready to go" following the skate, and that it was head coach Alain Vigneault's decision to have him sit out one more game before the playoffs begin next week.
"I told him I'm ready to go, and it's his decision and he wanted to give it one more day of rest here," explained McDonagh, who has been sidelined since injuring his shoulder in Vancouver on April 1st. "I feel ready to play, but you've got to respect the coach's decision, he's the leader of the team. He's looking at the long run, and we're beginning what we hope is a long run (in the playoffs), so he's running the ship and you have to respect him."
McDonagh is not the only important Blueshirt regular whom Vigneault has chosen to rest in Montreal on Saturday. Defenseman Dan Girardi and forward Marty St. Louis also will not play tonight, and Cam Talbot will start in goal to give Henrik Lundqvist a rare night off--as Lundqvist had played 19 of the previous 21 games.
Justin Falk, who has not played since December 29th--scratched in 41 consecutive games--will take Girardi's spot on defense in Montreal, while Daniel Carcillo will replace St. Louis.
"Everybody's good to go," Vigneault answered when asked if any of the scratched veterans were hurt or nursing injuries. "They're just not playing, that's all. This is our last regular season game, it's not going to change anything for us, so I wanted to get Dan Carcillo in and Falker in--he hasn't played in a long time. Mac is 100 percent, but I didn't see the necessity in playing him tonight. I spoke to Dan (Girardi) this morning, he's played 81 games and could've been 82, but the playoffs are more important. It's my call, so that's the way it is."
McDonagh explained that he really pushed himself in a solo skate at the MSG Training Center before the team left for Montreal on Friday, and that he realized at that point he was back to 100 percent healthy. He says the range of motion has returned in his shoulder and that on Saturday morning he felt more power on his shots.
"I should be good for next week," offered McDonagh, who leads all Ranger defensemen with 43 points. "It's good that we've got a few good days of practice (before the playoffs start). It would be a different situation if I had to return too quickly. I feel confident right now that I'll be able to play, and I'll take advantage of the extra rest going in to the playoffs."
As for learning on Friday that he had been named the Rangers team MVP and also the recipient of the 2014 Players Player Award, McDonagh said after the skate that he was "hunbled and honored".
"I couldn't have done it without the group of guys in here," stated McDonagh. "To receive that Players Player Award, which the team picks, from this group of guys, it really means a lot. It's a tremendous group that everybody pushes hard for each other, so it's great to feel that respect from them. That award could have gone to numerous guys here. I am very humbled and very honored."