Marc Staal on ice for today's #NYR practice but Kevin Klein is not..all other healthy Blueshirts out there— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 14, 2015
It looks like the Rangers will be without Kevin Klein for Game One of their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at MSG. Klein was injured on March 11th when an innocent looking Alexander Ovechkin shot broke his arm. There was some talk of Klein being ready to play in Game One last week, but it looks like Klein just isn't ready yet. Alain Vigneault apparently wants Klein to practice with the team before he is plugged back into the lineup, so he will not be dressing for Game One because he didn't practice today.
"He’s day-to-day," Vigneault said. "Like everybody knows, a broken bone takes time to heal. We anticipated four-to-six [weeks]. We’re in that range. He’s been skating on his own, but he’s not quite ready yet to join our team."
The good injury news would be that Klein was the only player to miss practice, meaning defenseman Marc Staal was there, saying he felt "good" after he missed the final two games of the season to rest an injury.
Forwards Rick Nash (missed final two games) and Mats Zuccarello (missed games No. 80 and 81) both practiced as well.
Having Nash, Zuccarello, and Marc Staal all participate in today's practice was expected, but its still great news to hear that the Rangers will only be without Klein for the team's first game of the 2015 Playoffs. As lady luck will have it, this is the healthiest the Rangers have been in quite some time. The Penguins, of course, seem to be on the wrong side of that luck.
It goes without saying that Klein being out of the picture for Thursday means that Matt Hunwick will remain in the lineup and will be dressing for the Rangers. Since winning the battle for the role of 7th defenseman back in the preseason and October, Matt Hunwick has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers. He may be unremarkable, but he's certainly not a bad option for the Blueshirts' blue line. Here's a look at the Rangers defensive pairings from the 10 most recent games (from leftwinglock.com):
Girardi - McDonagh 28.79%
Staal - Boyle 21.99%
Hunwick - Yandle 21.54%
Whether or not these will be the pairings we see on Thursday night is up in the air, but I expect that the coaching staff is going to want to keep players that are familiar with one another together. What the Rangers do with their defensive pairings will also have a lot to do with what the Penguins do with their lines and where they put certain monsters that are in their lineup. It's a bit spooky to think of Dan Boyle being on the ice when Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby are out there, isn't it?
Not having Klein's swashbucklingly good facial hair and mohawk on the bench is a pretty big bummer, but hopefully he'll be healed up enough to play Game Two on Saturday at the Garden. What lines do you think the Rangers should roll with on Thursday night? What are your preferred defensive pairings with Klein out of the picture?
Let's go Rangers.