NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on October 8, 2017 in New York City. The Rangers shutout the Canadiens 2-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The most impressive part of the Rangers‘ current level of play defensively is that they are doing it without their best defenseman.

Ryan McDonagh is the most important piece on this Rangers blueline, and with his return from injury looming the Rangers blueline can only get better.

It has been no secret that Ryan McDonagh hasn’t been having the type of season the Rangers have become accustomed to seeing. With him out of the lineup, the Rangers are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and the team has improved drastically defensively. It’s no secret that when McDonagh is ready to come back in the lineup, he will be back on that number one pair.

In McDonagh’s absence, the Rangers have allowed just five goals in three games, including one of their better defensive efforts against Carolina and Detroit. Steven Kampfer has done a serviceable job filling in for McDonagh but it’s time for the Rangers captain to get back in the lineup.

The team has clearly upped their game without their captain, and with his return looming they can only get better. Throughout the season, McDonagh missed several practices that the team called maintenance days, but clearly, something was up. With him back at 100 percent his play should improve back to the same level fans have seen him throughout his eight seasons on Broadway.

One player who has stepped with McDonagh out of the lineup has been Brady Skjei. McDonagh and Skjei have similar skill sets and even though they don’t play on the same pair, the emergence of Skjei defensively makes this Ranger blueline much deeper. It’s rare to have multiple players like this on your blueline, and the team can only benefit from McDonagh’s return.

It’s going to take some time before McDonagh is back in the lineup. He has been ruled out for the Rangers game against Florida but is aiming to make his return to the lineup on Friday when the Rangers faceoff in Washington D.C. against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

When McDonagh returns he might struggle at first, but it will only help the Rangers and what they are trying to accomplish.

Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.