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Dan Girardi back in, Adam Clendening out

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NHL: Arizona Coyotes at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Girardi will make his return to the New York Rangers tonight after missing time with a hip flexor injury. Girardi’s return has knocked early season (and preseason) standout 23-year-old defenseman Adam Clendening out of the lineup.

It comes as no surprise that Girardi is back (there had been reports of him returning for one of this weekend’s games for a few days). What is surprising is that it is Clendening, not Nick Holden, who will be a healthy scratch.

Holden has looked unremarkable early on this season. There is a lot to be desired in regards to his ability to move the puck out of his own zone. The Rangers are tied to Holden’s services for one more season after this one at a cap hit of $1.65 million.

Clendening picked up his first point as a New York Ranger last night against the Washington Capitals. He has been the Rangers’ best possession-driving defenseman this season and has been the point man on the second power play unit. With him out of the lineup it will be interesting who the Rangers turn to on that second unit.

Girardi’s return to the lineup has also sparked some unwelcome and frustrating drama on social media among bloggers and beat writers. It’s threatening to become a sideshow that follows the team all season long. Girardi doesn’t deserve that.

The criticism directed at Girardi has nothing to do with who he is as a person- it has everything to do with his ability to play effective defense in the National Hockey League. Girardi didn’t write the check on his own contract and salary. The Rangers’ front office did.