The former first-round pick is certainly making the most of his opportunity.
McDonagh and the Rangers try for a third consecutive win when they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
McDonagh, who is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time while Staal (concussion) and Sauer (shoulder) remain out, came up huge for New York (2-1-2) on Thursday, scoring with two seconds remaining in overtime to defeat Calgary 3-2.
Selected 12th overall by Montreal in the 2007 draft, McDonagh had one goal and eight assists in 40 games for the Rangers last season, but is now tied for second on the team with two goals and four points.
"It's a great experience for him because there has been some struggles with his play but he stays with it," coach John Tortorella said. "As we go through here, some of those guys that are in spots that they didn't expect to be in, it's going to help our team in the long run."
After stopping all 40 shots to record his 36th career shutout in Tuesday's 4-0 win at Vancouver, Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves against the Flames in his 36th consecutive start including the 2010-11 postseason.
"We try and support each other out there, even with some new guys back there," Lundqvist, who hasn't faced the Oilers since 2008, told the Rangers' official website. "And we need that because we're going to have guys out (injured) once in a while. Right now we have two good defensemen out and we need guys to step up and right now we are getting that."
New York is allowing 33.4 shots on goal per game but could catch a break against an Edmonton team which has totaled 11 goals in its first six contests.
"The bottom line is we're getting chances as a team to score," Oilers coach Tom Renney told the team's official website. "I think we've got to maybe work a little bit harder to get to the blue paint and hang around there a little more and fight for body position. We do have the ability to score, even though the statistics may indicate otherwise right now."
After falling 2-1 on Tuesday at Calgary, the Oilers (2-2-2) suffered a 2-1 shootout defeat to Minnesota on Thursday.
"None of us are happy at all with these last two losses," Renney said. "We were right there to win these two games. But that's the beauty of this team is that they're not happy. They're pissed off, and that's the way it should be. You can't come out of a loss saying we sure tried hard and did a lot of good things and leave it at that."
While the offense hasn't done much of late, Edmonton has killed all 12 of its opponents' power-play opportunities over the last three games.
Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 30 saves against the Wild, has stopped 75 of 78 shots on the season, posting a 1-0-2 record and a 0.95 goals-against average.
Since joining the Oilers in 2009-10, Khabibulin has lost to the Rangers twice. He surrendered a career-worst eight goals in an 8-2 loss at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14, 2010.
Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik, who had a hat trick and added an assist in that contest, has 14 goals and 12 assists in his last 18 games versus the Oilers.
The Rangers conclude their season-opening seven-game road trip Monday in Winnipeg. Due to renovations being completed at MSG, they are the NHL's only club that has yet to play a home game.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.