Dan Girardi took a short twirl on the ice Friday morning, but his stitched-up ankle didn’t feel strong enough to practice with the team. So the Rangers’ stalwart defenseman is set miss his second game in a row, Saturday night’s Garden match against the Avalanche, which will wrap up a four-game homestand against Western Conference teams.
“He stepped on the ice there for a quick 100 feet there and then came off,” coach Alain Vigneault said of Girardi, who originally was hurt while blocking a shot in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Ducks.
“We’ll try again [Saturday] morning, but even if he feels better, he hasn’t practiced in three days. We’ll let him skate [Saturday] if he can. If not, we’re going to try again on Sunday and see where he is.”
That means Adam Clendening will stay in the lineup for the second straight game, likely to be paired again with Marc Staal. Nick Holden has moved up to play the right side of the first pair with captain Ryan McDonagh.
The third defensive pair is Kevin Klein with rookie Brady Skjei, and although Skjei has had good moments this season, Vigneault is hoping he continues to improve.
“He’s just got to improve his decision making with the puck, and that’s just from playing more and playing in more situations,” Vigneault said. “But he’s certainly taken some good positive steps and we need him to continue.”
When the Rangers signed Michael Grabner this offseason on a two-year deal with annual salary-cap hit of $1.65 million, Vigneault had quite a different expectation than the team-leading 26 goals he has scored through the first 53 games.
“I thought we were getting a guy, [who] obviously could help us on the penalty killing, and theoretically, when you make up your lines in the summer, you say, ‘This guy is probably a fourth line and if somebody doesn’t do well, he can step up,’ ” Vigneault said. “I knew we were getting that. I didn’t know we were going to get the consistent goal scoring that we’ve got.
“But he’s got a swagger right now, he’s feeling good about himself, he’s working his butt off, and that’s a real positive for him and our team.”
Asked if Grabner was faster than former Rangers’ speedster Carl Hagelin, Vigneault punted.
“Jeez, that’s a tough one,” he said. “That’d be a toss up. Both incredible speed.”
The lineup Saturday is set to be the same as it was for Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Predators, with forwards Brandon Pirri and Matt Puempel as the healthy scratches.
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