Mike Halford

RyanMcDonagh

With McDonagh (hand) uncertain, Rangers mull Diaz recall

The Rangers aren’t expressing much optimism about captain Ryan McDonagh‘s availability for the start of their opening-round playoff series against Pittsburgh.

In fact, they’ve already moved onto potential replacements.

“I would say at this point, there’s a chance [McDonagh] might be able to play at some point,” head coach Alain Vigneault said, per NorthJersey.com.

AV then suggested that Raphael Diaz — the journeyman blueliner that’s spent almost the entire year in AHL Hartford — could be brought up as a stopgap blueline solution.

Diaz does have playoff experience — 12 games, including four with the Rangers en route to the ’14 Stanley Cup Final — but has been largely out of the mix this season, and actually signed a deal to return to play in his native Switzerland for next season.

McDonagh, who hasn’t played since injuring his hand blocking a shot against Columbus on Apr. 2, has been skating in a non-contact role. New York opens its first-round series against Pittsburgh tomorrow at Consol.

USA Hockey names Michigan’s ‘CCM Line’ to Worlds roster

Michigan forward Tyler Motte, left, and forward JT Compher (7) congratulate defenseman Sam Piazza (6) after his empty-net goal during the third period of the championship game of the Great Lakes Invitational NCAA college tournament against Michigan Tech, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Detroit. Michigan defeated Michigan Tech 4-2. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP
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Give USA Hockey credit — it knows how to make a splash.

After making Auston Matthews the first and only player named to the 2016 World Championships roster back in March, the organization generated more headlines on Tuesday by selecting Kyle Connor, J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte — the trio that formed the wildly productive “CCM” line at the University of Michigan this season.

Connor, who signed his entry-level deal with Winnipeg yesterday, led the nation in scoring as a freshman with a whopping 71 points in 38 games. Compher finished second with 63 points, and Motte — who also went pro, signing with Chicago — finished fourth, with 56.

Those three, along with Matthews, will almost certainly raise interest in the America entry at this year’s tournament. The U.S. also kept its youth movement going by naming Carolina rookie d-man Noah Hanifin to the roster — Hanifin, the fifth overall pick at the 2015 draft, scored 22 points in 79 games this year, and impressive feat given he only turned 19 in January.

For the rest of the players named to the U.S. roster today, click here.

On eve of playoffs, Blues 100 percent healthy for ‘first time all year’

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Blues captain David Backes was back at practice today.

So too was Troy Brouwer, Jake Allen and Steve Ott.

What did that mean? Well, something quite remarkable, per the Post-Dispatch:

[It] meant that every Blue was in uniform and accounted for Tuesday. That’s a total of 26 players, including 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. That borders on a miracle for a roster that has lost 288 man games to injury this season.

“It was good, first time all year,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Nice to see, got some choices now. See how it goes tomorrow.”

Asked if every player was available for Game 1, Hitchcock replied: “Yeah, 100 percent, we’re to go … so let’s play. Thanks.”

To say the Blues have been besieged by injuries this season is an understatement. Only one player — Brouwer — appeared in all 82 contests while key contributors like Ott, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz each played in 50 or fewer.

With all these healthy bodies, Hitchcock does have some legitimate lineup decisions to make. One of the byproducts of St. Louis’ health issues is that several depth players saw quality minutes and playing time this year.

For example, Robert Bortuzzo and Petteri Lindbohm were the extra defensemen at Tuesday’s practice. The two combined to play 50 games this year.

Up front, there’s a surplus of experience as well. Ott, who suffered a major hamstrings injury and then diagnosed with colitis, hasn’t appeared in a game since December but has 46 career playoff contests on his resume. Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin, played 48 and 65 games this season, respectively.

The Blues will open their playoff campaign against Chicago tomorrow night.

Johnson (upper body) returns to Bolts practice, game-time decision for playoff opener

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One
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With Anton Stralman and captain Steve Stamkos already sidelined, Tampa Bay can ill afford to have any more regulars missing for its opening-round playoff series against Detroit.

Which is why Tuesday was a good day for the Bolts.

Tyler Johnson, out since getting hurt against the Habs over the weekend, returned to practice on and took rushes centering the club’s top line, between Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov.

This has been a tough year for Johnson, limited to just 68 games while dealing with a myriad of injuries. There is hope, at least among the Lightning players, that the diminutive forward can rediscover the success he found in last year’s playoffs, when he led all skaters with 13 goals and 23 points in 26 games.

Tampa Bay opens up its series against the Red Wings tomorrow, to kick off the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Isles rule out Halak for first round series versus Panthers

Jaroslav Halak
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Thomas Greiss is now locked into the biggest moment of his professional career.

On Tuesday, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano ruled out No. 1 netminder Jaroslav Halak for his club’s opening-round playoff series against the Panthers, per the New York Daily News.

That means — barring a dramatic turn of events — Greiss, who’s held the starting gig since Halak got hurt in early March, will start a playoff series for the first time since breaking into the NHL eight years ago.

Greiss, 30, is coming off his finest campaign, in which he went 23-11-4 with a .925 save percentage and 2.36 GAA. But it was also the biggest workload of his career — his 41 appearances nearly doubles his previous high of 25 — and the first time he’s ever carried a full-fledged starting gig.

Which is why this series against Florida will be pretty compelling.

Related: Five playoff goalie dramas to watch