Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/9/11

The New York Rangers have been without alternate captain Marc Staal since the beginning of the season, which is a situation that I think everyone is aware of by now. In his place has stepped in Dan Girardi, who's been given Staal's "A" for the time being. So far, Girardi has accepted the responsibility that comes along with wearing a letter and has made the best of it. 

Not only does Girardi lead the league in time on ice per game, taking on heavy minutes for the Blueshirts on defense, but he's been a role model for the younger players like Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer to look up to. It's often misunderstood how critical it is to have a veteran around that can show the younger guys the ropes, because it really can have an influential impact on their development. Girardi has provided this for the underclassmen on the Rangers. 

Here's a video from yesterday's practice in which fellow defensemen Mike Del Zotto and Mike Sauer discuss the phenomenal play of Girardi and the impact he's had on them:


DZ and Sauer weren't the only ones giving Girardi a lot of credit yesterday. Take a look at what head coach John Tortorella had to say about Girardi following practice on Tuesday, courtesy of Blueshirts United....

"He doesn't get talked about too much in the league or around here, but I think he is one of the most underrated players in our game. Danny doesn't say much, he's a pretty quiet kid, but how he plays in all the situations he's put in is a tremendous learning tool for the other young players."

Those are some meaningful compliments coming from the coach, which he doesn't often give all of his players. You have to earn those high marks from Torts, and obviously Danny G has went above and beyond here. 

It's quite true that Girardi does not get the attention he deserves, but that's not always a bad thing. He is, in a way, the Rangers' secret weapon on defense. He's not someone who will necessarily appear on the opponent's radar going into a game, or at least not someone they will focus on. But come gametime, he is a brick wall that's ridiculously difficult to get around. 

In my opinion, he is in the top three homegrown players the Rangers currently have on their roster without a doubt, and the fact that he is leading the way for the younger guys who are taking the same journey as he did makes him even better. 

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