Trouba returns and Blackwell a scratch for Di Giuseppe

Jacob Trouba is ready to return to the lineup tonight when the Rangers visit the Penguins. Face-off is after 7:30 PM.

He missed less time than first thought after sustaining a broken thumb on Feb. 4 against Washington. Trouba was expected to miss four to six weeks with the injury. Instead, he healed faster and returns to the defense for the first of two over three days versus Pittsburgh.

Coming out of the lineup is veteran Jack Johnson to make room for Trouba. Interestingly, he played better this time. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes while paired up with Libor Hajek, who scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Devils. Credit to Johnson for doing a solid job. Also nice to see the coaching staff stick with Hajek, who has made the most of his second chance.

While Trouba returns, that likely means K’Andre Miller paired back up with the physical right defenseman. Brendan Smith can slide down to pair with Hajek. Smith has done an admirable job filling in on the top six. He remains a hardworking player David Quinn trusts. Good for him.

That won’t be the only lineup change. When asked about it, he told reporters Phil Di Giuseppe would be back in for this game. Colin Blackwell comes out. He’s cooled off during the team’s first three-game winning streak. However, I would prefer him be part of the lineup.

It is what it is. Quinn will keep Brett Howden in due to his penalty killing and fourth line role. He’s centering the checking line that right now includes Brendan Lemieux and Di Giuseppe. PDG brings similar skating and energy as the gritty Blackwell. Lemieux stays in due to his straightforward hard checking game even though he’s been a disappointment.

Obviously, Kevin Rooney has proven he belongs in with the strong penalty killing and forechecking he provides. He’ll continue to take draws for Filip Chytil on the third line that includes Julien Gauthier, whose two assist game was not unnoticed. He would’ve played more if he didn’t go for x-rays during a portion of the second period yesterday. Gauthier’s emergence is a positive development for the Rangers. He is a former first round pick of Carolina. His size and speed are intriguing.

After some consideration for Keith Kinkaid, who has a good record versus the Pens, Quinn will stay with Alex Georgiev tonight. He’ll oppose Casey DeSmith.

This will be a good test for the team to see where they are. Two against the Pens followed by a pair in Boston are no picnic.

I’ll have more later.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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