Banged-up Rangers give Raphael Diaz a call for blueline support

The veteran rearguard has been called up from the minors and could see action as soon as Game 3. Diaz brings power play acumen with him and will likely battle youngster Dylan McIlrath for a spot in the lineup against Pittsburgh.

First Ryan McDonagh, then Dan Girardi. The New York Rangers are living the “war of attrition” storyline that often dominates the Stanley Cup playoffs and they’re doing it right away. With those two regulars sidelined, the Rangers have called up defenseman Raphael Diaz from the AHL. When will he play?

It could be as soon as tomorrow, with New York locked in a 1-1 series with Pittsburgh. As noted by Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay, young defenseman Dylan McIlrath played sparingly in Game 2 – the first contest Girardi missed due to injury (mysteriously referred to as “whole body”).

Now, the Rangers won that game 4-2, so there’s no need to panic if you’re a Blueshirts fan – but Pittsburgh comes in waves and the series will only get tougher as Evgeni Malkin and Marc–Andre Fleury continue to heal for the other side (Malkin played in Game 2 and was only behind Sidney Crosby in ice time by a Penguins forward).

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In Diaz, New York gets a player who can help out on the power play and in a close series, those details matter. The Rangers have gone just 1-for-8 so far against Pittsburgh, while the Penguins are 3-for-10. On the other hand, he’s not the strongest defenseman out there, whereas McIlrath’s trade involves being an imposing physical presence.

Coach Alain Vigneault hadn’t made the call yet on who would go in for Game 3, but he will need options in the short-term and Diaz gives New York some flexibility.