clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 Playoffs: Mats Zuccarello Out Indefinitely, Klein Ready for Game 1

New, comments

This is not the news we wanted to get to start off the week.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

When Zuccarello left Game 5 of the Rangers' first round series against the Penguins after a Ryan McDonagh shot hit him in the side of the head, we all feared the worst. Unfortunately, it appears that at least some of our worst fears have manifested into an unfortunate and frustrating reality; Mats Zuccarello likely has a concussion. We say "likely" of course because injuries, especially postseason injuries, are surrounded in more mystery, uncertainty, and smoke than the classifications used by xenobiologists. We might not truly know why Zuke will be out of the lineup, but we do know that he is out "indefinitely"... which again is about as helpful and informative as the utterance "meh".

I think this is the first time I've ever said this phrase and truly meant it... but, please be a broken jaw.

The Rangers are going to have to find a way to get it done for an indefinite (I really do hate that word) amount of time with Mats Zuccarello out of the picture. In his 5 postseason games in 2015 Zuke had 2 assists and 13 shots, but his impact on the series and its eventual conclusion was significantly bigger than his 2 points.. As we all know, Zuke plays primarily with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash on the Rangers most dangerous and often most productive line. With Zuccarello on the shelf, Martin St. Louis will almost certainly be moving up into the top six. St. Louis has 10 shots and a single assist thus far in the 2015 Playoffs. To say that St. Louis was not a key cog in the Rangers machine that bested the Penguins in five games might be harsh words to some of you, but St. Louis played a very minor role in the first round for the Blueshirts. The word "invisible" has been applied to his impact on the series by scores of Rangers fans and bloggers. Hopefully, Marty will make a much bigger impact against the next Metropolitan Division rival the Rangers lock horns with because the Rangers are going to miss having Mats Zuccarello and his creativity, puck movement, and tenacity in the lineup in a big, bad way.

With Zuke out of the picture, a roster spot opens up for the Rangers on the third line. Will the Rangers turn to James Sheppard and plug him in on the fourth line and give Jesper Fast a crack at the third line playing with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin? I certainly wouldn't be opposed to having Jesper on the third line, but I'm not sold on Sheppard and Glass being on the fourth line with Dominic Moore. So much of the Rangers' success against the Penguins came from outstanding play from their bottom six, so the decision of who to plug in is a much more important one than most might think it is. Will the Rangers turn to the farm system and bring a new face into the lineup for their second round battle against the Isles or Caps? As of this moment, I'm not sure what the best option for the team is, maybe that decision is going to be influenced by who wins Game 7 of the Capitals and Islanders first round series.

Thankfully there is some good news coming out of the Rangers practice today; it appears that Kevin Klein will be ready to return to the lineup for Game 1 at Madison Square Garden against the Islanders or Capitals. Klein had been flirting with returning to the lineup for almost a week after recovering from a broken arm, but he was not going to be plugged back in until he had a full practice with his teammates. Today Klein met that requirement established by Alain Vigneault by taking to the ice with his teammates.The question now becomes does Klein come in to replace Matt Hunwick or Dan Boyle? For those of you hoping it is Boyle, you had best prepare yourself for disappointment.

The Rangers' defensive pairings in their most recent game looked like this:

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick

With Kevin Klein back in the picture, it is hard to see the Rangers taking Dan Boyle out of the lineup, especially with a puck mover like Zuccarello out of the lineup. It will almost certainly be Matt Hunwick who watches the next game while wearing a suit. Hunwick was hardly sensational against the Penguins, but he was solid and did what was expected of him.

If there are any further developments with the Rangers' roster or with Mats Zuccarello's injury we will keep you posted. With Zuccarello out and Klein back in, who are the 18 skaters that you want to see on Madison Square Garden ice for Game 1 of the second round of the 2015 Playoffs?

Let's go Rangers, get well soon, Zuker.