ANAHEIM, Calif. — So the first domino fell in the Rangers’ seven-defensemen-into-six-slots quandary and it was Dan Girardi sitting out to accommodate Kevin Klein’s return to the lineup for Sunday’s 6-3 defeat to the Ducks.
Coach Alain Vigneault’s decision seemed to be based as much on the blue-line unit’s performance in Saturday’s 3-0 victory in Los Angles as it was on the demands of going back-to-back with Girardi, who had been sidelined for 12 games tending to an ankle injury prior to making his re-entry against the Kings as Ryan McDonagh’s first-pair partner.
“If you look at Saturday night’s game, both Danny and Ryan spent a lot of time in our own end, if you look at our puck possession numbers when they were on the ice,” said Vigneault, who inserted Klein into Girardi’s spot on McDonagh’s right side. “That pair got caught out quite a bit in our own end. This seemed like the smarter way to go.”
According to NaturalStattrick.com, the Rangers were out-attempted 60-32 during five-on-five play and 31-11 in the second period. McDonagh was minus-30 (8/38) and Girardi minus-27 (9/36) while Skjei and Smith were each plus-five (12/7 apiece) and Staal (12/18) and Holden were each minus-six.
Vigneault did allow that the back-to-back mitigated against Girardi dressing for this one.
“As I had said, I didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” Vigneault said in reference to veteran righties Girardi and Klein, the latter of whom had missed 15 straight since leaving the lineup with back issues on Feb. 23. “Obviously it is not an easy situation for Danny with that type of injury where he didn’t skate much or do a lot of off-ice conditioning.
“Kleiner is in and we’ll go from there.”
Girardi got 20:03 of ice time Saturday while paired with McDonagh, including a pair of extended shifts during which the Blueshirts were pinned in their own zone.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, but I just tried…