- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi hopes he'll be able to return Sunday against Tampa Bay after missing the last two games with what the Rangers described as being "banged up."
"I'm hoping to get back as soon as possible," Girardi said, according to a video on the Rangers' website. "I'm not going to say when or where. I just want to get back to feeling better. It would be nice to play Sunday."
Girardi, who missed a loss against the Devils and a win against the Islanders, said his injury has been nagging at him but it's been getting better. He has skated in hopes that when he makes his return, he won't be that far behind. In eight games, Girardi has two assists and a -3 rating and is averaging a rigorous 24:55 of ice time.
During Thursday's morning skate, hours before the Rangers defeated the Islanders, Girardi said he knew right away he would not be able to skate that night, opting to take a precautionary route and sit out what would be a 4-1 win.
Missing games isn't something Girardi's accustomed to doing, as he's been as durable as they come in his time with the Rangers. In his five previous seasons he had missed just two games, both in 2010-11.
"It's hard to miss these games, especially when you don't miss a lot. It's a lot different feeling going into a morning and trying to figure out if you're able to go or not," Girardi told reporters. "It's a hard process for me but just hoping that it's over and I can get healthy and get after it."
When Girardi comes back, the Rangers will have a chance to return their lineup to normalcy as forwards Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider also came back earlier this week after missing time with injuries. For now, Girardi is mostly steering clear of his teammates.
"Let the guys do their thing," Girardi said. "When I'm playing and guys are sitting out, they're kind of doing their own thing and leaving the guys alone. I think that's the right way to do it. Let the guys kind of do what they have to do to get ready and stay out of the way."
With Girardi out of the lineup the past two games, Rangers coach John Tortorella has tinkered with some defensive units. Tuesday, he had Matt Gilroy and Anton Stralman together. Thursday, he put Stralman with Ryan McDonagh, combined Gilroy and Steve Eminger, and had Stu Bickel on the bench.
33dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald