NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, February 14, 2016, 1:50 AM
The Rangers and Flyers will renew their fierce rivalry when two team meet at MSG on Sunday.
Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh practiced Saturday wearing a red non-contact jersey for the first time since he was concussed one week prior from a sucker-punch by the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds.
The defenseman’s return to the ice came a day before Sunday night’s Rangers-Flyers rematch at the Garden, where emotions surely will be high because of the cheap shot, despite some Rangers downplaying that fact after practice, trying to focus on getting two points after Friday’s overtime loss to the Kings.
“You can’t go out of your way to try to do too much,” Dylan McIlrath told the Daily News before acknowledging that there still is some lingering bitterness over the fact that Simmonds went after the Rangers’ captain.
“We want to stick up for each other,” McIlrath said. “He’s obviously our captain and our best defenseman, so it sucks seeing him go out. My job is to stick up for my teammates when I’m on the ice and play a hard brand of hockey, so that’s all I can really comment on.”
Tanner Glass alluded to reporters earlier in the week that Simmonds’ hit wouldn’t be tolerated. He was more coy on Saturday on whether there’d be fireworks Sunday night.
“I think as a group we didn’t like the hit,” Glass said. “It was right in front of our bench. We all saw the play develop and what happened. It’s part of the game, as sad as it is to say, and we’ll see what happens (Sunday.)”
As for McDonagh, it “looks like he didn’t even miss a beat,” as McIlrath put it. It’s unclear when McDonagh will be cleared for contact and subsequently return to game action. Alain Vigneault said it was too early to tell if McDonagh would be ready for Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks.
Wayne Simmonds was ejected, but not suspended, for his sucker punch on Ryan McDonagh.
McDonagh says he made significant progress over the last few days from his first-ever concussion and hasn’t experienced concussion symptoms lately.
“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said. “I have a lot of energy physically. That was something in the beginning there where I was really feeling lethargic and not a lot of energy. But definitely I’m getting back to full strength here, which is exciting.”
Vigneault was livid Monday because Simmonds, who received a game misconduct last Saturday, wasn’t suspended for the hit or for breaking his stick and throwing it toward the officials, which is supposed to result in a three-game suspension. Vigneault also suggested the NHL might have reacted differently if Penguins star Sidney Crosby had been hit, comments Vigneault wasn’t fined for.
Asked about an emotional carry-over into Sunday, Vigneault addressed the importance of a victory.
“It’s gonna be another typical Ranger-Flyer game,” he said. “A lot of emotion, and there’s gonna be some physicality, but you have to make plays. There’s some defensive plays that need to be made and some offensive plays that need to be made, and that has to be our group’s mentality tomorrow.”
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