Projecting the defense pairs for the playoffs

dan girardi

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers haven’t had a fully healthy defensive unit for some time now. Kevin Klein has been out with a nagging back injury, and Dan Girardi has been out with an ankle injury. We haven’t heard any news about them skating in practice yet, so it’s safe to say the Rangers are taking their time and not rushing either veteran back into the lineup.

With the new luxury of being able to rest some players without really impacting playoff seeding, Alain Vigneault has a rare opportunity to evaluate the current six-some on defense and see if and where Girardi/Klein can slide in when healthy. Emphasis here is on if.

In all likelihood, Girardi is going to be the one coming back to the lineup first. Girardi has a timetable on his injury, whereas we have heard nothing from the club regarding Klein.

Girardi is going to be back in the lineup, that’s the easiest guess I’ve ever had to make. At that point, Steven Kampfer’s time in the lineup will come to an end. Another easy guess.

But what about Klein? If he gets healthy –and that’s a huge if– will he even be in the lineup? Girardi will already be in the lineup. McDonagh and Skjei aren’t coming out of the lineup. Brendan Smith isn’t coming out either.

That leaves Marc Staal and Nick Holden. I highly doubt Holden and his┬áten-goal, thirty-point season is seeing the bench. Ditto Staal and his….whatever it is.

All signs point to Klein being the new 7D when he is fully healthy.┬áConsidering his struggles, that is likely where he is best suited. It’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who has been relatively successful during his New York tenure.

These aren’t necessarily┬áchallenging questions. The hard part is predicting what AV is going to do with his defense pairings. Does he continue with the McDonagh-Smith pairing as the top dog? If so, then the only place for Girardi is on the third pair with Skjei. If AV wants McDonagh-Girardi back together, then the bottom-four are a toss-up. Personally, I feel that putting Girardi on the third pair with Skjei –which in reality should be the second pairing– is the best bet for lineup depth.