Dan Girardi

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Former Ranger Dan Girardi ready for ‘weird’ game against old team

Dan Girardi spent the first 11 years of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, but that all changed this summer when the team decided to buy out his contract.

For those of us on the outside, the decision was a lot less surprising. Stay-at-home defensemen with big contracts are becoming more and more rare, so the fact that the Rangers wanted to move on from the inflated contract wasn’t exactly shocking for the average hockey fan.

Still, being forced to leave the only team you’ve ever known couldn’t have been easy. Now, he’ll get the chance to suit up against his former team for the first time, on Thursday night.

Most players pretend like this is just another game, but not Girardi, who told NHL.com that Thursday’s game is “still going to be weird” even though it’s being played in Tampa, not New York.

The Lightning have more overall depth than the Rangers, so they’ve been able to use Girardi in a much more limited role than he had been playing with New York in the past. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the 33-year-old was averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. In his first season with the Bolts, he’s playing just 16:33 per game, which is probably just right for him at this stage of his career.

“Definitely, it’s kind of a different role,” Girardi said. “They want me to still come in and play my game, but I’m not leaned upon to be the top guy. I’m paired with (Braydon) Coburn and we’re still playing some hard minutes against top lines, [but] my job is to be really good defensively and if I can contribute on offense it’s great.”

Obviously, contributing offensively isn’t his forte (he has one assist in 13 games), but he’s been a decent fit with his new squad.

Girardi’s CF% is under 50 percent at 47.6. But considering he isn’t great with the puck on his stick and that he starts in the defensive zone 57.4 percent of the time, those are fair numbers for the veteran. During his final three years in New York, his CF% was 46.3, 41.3 and 44.

For those wondering when Girardi will get a chance to go back to New York for the first time, that’ll come on Mar. 30, 2018.

Report: Brassard should be ready for training camp after wrist surgery

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New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard underwent wrist surgery last week, leaving him with a four-to-six week window of recovery, according to sources including The Bergen Record.

That rehab estimate would indicate that the 27-year-old will be recovered by the time training camp kicks off sometime in September.

It’s unclear how long Brassard’s wrist was bothering him, but either way, he was quite productive last season.

During the regular season, he set new career-highs in goals (19), assists (41) and points (60). His postseason totals were also new high marks, as he managed 16 points in 19 contests.

As the Bergen Record notes, Brassard is one of quite a few Rangers who weren’t 100 percent during the final stretch.

It just gives a full picture of the Rangers’ medical issues during the postseason. Captain Ryan McDonagh was playing on a broken right foot, Dan Girardi underwent a bursa excision on his ankle and Marc Staal had a bone chip removed from his ankle. Plus, Keith Yandle continued playing after suffering a shoulder sprain in the first round.

The Rangers likely expect Brassard to match or exceed last season’s numbers, so it’s a positive that he probably won’t deal with lingering issues. That said, setbacks can happen; if so, it will be noted at PHT this summer.

There wasn’t always such an emphasis on shot-blocking

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CHICAGO — The day after it was reported that the NHL’s competition committee had discussed “disallowing certain shot-blocking techniques,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman, was asked how the emphasis on shot-blocking has changed compared to when he was playing.

“I think the game has changed now,” said Quenneville. “There’s so many layers of guys in shooting lanes. There’s one, two and three guys sometimes you got to get the pucks through. I just think a lot of teams emphasize making sure shots don’t get through, and protecting the middle of the ice as well.”

It wasn’t always that way. The rise of shot-blocking has been linked to the NHL’s crackdown on obstruction that followed the 2004-05 lockout.

“You [keep] forwards from going to the net, and you’re called for interference,” Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara told Sports Illustrated in 2007. “And once the forwards get there, they’re basically screening your goalie. So now all that’s left for you is throwing yourself in front of shots.”

PHT reached out to former NHL forward Ray Ferraro to ask what it was like when he was in the league, from the mid-1980s until 2002.

“Shot-blocking was never really demanded from us. It wasn’t seen as a big deal,” Ferraro texted. “The focus was on keeping the lane clear for goalies to see the shot.”

More goals and fewer injuries are two reasons to try and think up ways to reduce the number of shots being blocked.

However, just because the topic was discussed by the competition committee doesn’t mean anything will be done about it, or should be done about it. After all, there’s something to be said for a player’s willingness to sacrifice his body for the good of the team.

“Some guys have more of an anticipation towards that, more willingness to do it,” said Quenneville. “There’s a bit of an art. There’s a little bit of pain that you gotta deal with as well. We may have one of the best ones in the game in [Niklas Hjalmarsson].”

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi leads all players in blocked shots during the playoffs, with 65.

On the teams in the Stanley Cup Final, Hjalmarsson leads the Blackhawks with 51, while Victor Hedman has the most on the Lightning, with 39.

Related: Ducks dealing with shot-blocking conundrum

Rangers announce Staal, Girardi underwent successful ankle surgeries

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One-third of the New York Rangers defense went under the knife this week, as blueliners Marc Staal and Dan Girardi both had successful ankle surgeries.

Staal’s was to repair a hairline fracture and bone chip, while Girardi had a bursa excision to remove fluid. Both are expected to recover fully over the summer, and be ready for training camp in the fall.

Staal and Girardi weren’t the only two New York d-man playing hurt this postseason. Captain Ryan McDonagh suffered a broken foot in the Eastern Conference Final, Keith Yandle had a sprained AC joint in his shoulder and Kevin Klein missed the entire first round recovering from a broken arm during the regular season.

Up front, winger Mats Zuccarello suffered a skull fracture and brain contusion during the opening round against Pittsburgh, and missed the remainder of the playoffs.

Battered defense: Rangers’ Staal, McDonagh, Girardi, Yandle all played injured

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The New York Rangers defense was anything but healthy by the time Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final rolled around. While injury information is a closely guarded secret during the playoffs, now that the Rangers’ run is over, the team is willing to open up about what they were battling through.

Marc Staal played in all 19 postseason games despite suffering a hairline fracture in his ankle near the end of the regular season. He logged 20:40 minutes per game in the playoffs, but finished with just one assist and a team-worst minus-eight rating, per the Bergen Record.

Ryan McDonagh also played with a fractured bone as he injured his right foot during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. He logged 17:33 minutes in the final contest of that series.

Blueliners Dan Girardi and Keith Yandle suffered a grade 1 MCL and a shoulder sprain respectively. Girardi was injured in Game 4 versus the Lightning, but Yandle’s been hurt since Game 2 of the first round.

Yandle led all Rangers defensemen with 11 points in 19 contests. He also posted a plus-seven rating and averaged 18:00 minutes. Girardi finished second on the team in ice time with an average of 21:37 minutes per game.