GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The All-Star defenseman in the red jersey skated up and down the ice in all the offensive and defensive drills at the MSG Training Center. But that doesn’t mean Ryan McDonagh will be skating up and down the ice on Valentine’s night when love surely won’t be in the air at the Garden.
McDonagh returned to practice with the Rangers Saturday after missing three games due to the concussion-causing, gloved sucker punch he absorbed in a clash with Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds on Feb. 6. But the red jersey stood for “no contact.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said McDonagh isn’t ready to return for Sunday night’s rematch against the Flyers, just that the captain seems to be getting “pretty close” to clearance for contact.
“It’s really exciting,” McDonagh said of being back out there. “I’ve really been progressing well the last three or four days. … I’m starting to feel like myself. I have a lot of energy physically. That was something that at the beginning I was really feeling just kind of lethargic and not a lot of energy.”
Rick Nash will sit out, too, sidelined for the ninth game because of a bad bone bruise in his left leg. Vigneault said the winger is going from “day-to-day to, I would say, week-to-week in the sense that the bone bruise is just taking longer than we expected to heal. … I think they’re going to shut him down for another week.”
Vigneault said this Philly game is about points in the playoff race. But it could also be about trying to seek payback against Simmonds and delivering a fist-filled message.
McDonagh received minors for high sticking and slashing in the incident that came in the first period of the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout win. Simmonds received a five-minute match penalty and a game misconduct. Vigneault openly fumed over the NHL’s failure to hit Simmonds with a fine or a suspension.
While Simmonds has said there was no intent to injure McDonagh, fourth-line left wing Tanner Glass indicated Tuesday that he wanted to send a message to the Flyers forward “to let him know it’s not going to be tolerated . . . He’s been in enough altercations to know that it’s coming.”
Glass wasn’t as overt after this latest practice, saying, “We obviously didn’t like the hit as a team. But at the same time, it’s a divisional opponent. We’re going to go out there and try to get two points. I’m sure everything will take care of itself.”
He added, “Ryan’s a huge part of our team and a leader both on and off the ice for us. So any time a guy like that does get hit, you want to make sure you let the guy know.”
Some Rangers fans in the Twitter-sphere have lobbied for 6-5, 220-pound rookie defenseman Dylan McIrath to be the one to take on Simmonds, listed at 6-2, 183. When that fact was relayed to McIlrath by Newsday, he said, “I appreciate their enthusiasm, but my main focus is trying to help the team win in every aspect.”
Notes & quotes: Center Derick Brassard and defenseman Dan Girardi didn’t practice. But Vigneault said this was “a maintenance day,” adding, “I expect both those guys to be ready” to play.