Yesterday Dan Rosen of NHL.com published an article after he had a phone interview with Rangers' coach Alain Vigneault about the health of forward Mats Zuccarello. As per Rosen, all signs point to Zuccarello being at 100% and ready for training camp.
"I've heard he's 100 percent from our medical staff," Vigneault said. "He's been cleared to skate and have contact. He's made a full recovery, so we're very pleased about that. He's a big part of our team."
There were already promising signs that this was already the case because of Zuccarello's social media posts, his charity work in Tanzania, and his participation in the 2015 Zuccarello All-Star Game in Norway, but hearing those words from the Rangers' bench boss certainly puts any doubts about his health to rest.
Zuccarello suffered a brain contusion and a small skull fracture after taking a Ryan McDonagh slap shot to the side of his head in Game 5 of the Blueshirts' first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The impact of the injury is something that a lot of fans and analysts point to as a key factor in the Rangers' failing to get past the Tampa Bay Lightning. There's no doubt that without Zuccarello in the lineup, the Rangers are and were a worse hockey team.
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"I had a small fracture in my head. I lost my talking and some feeling in my arm. I was in the hospital for three days. I couldn't talk for a while, there was some blood in my brain." -Zuccarello
Zuccarello was unable to speak for 4 days after the injury and had to go through speech therapy. The news that the Rangers' most creative and metrics-approved forward is good to go for training camp is a huge relief. It goes without saying that Zuccarello is crucial to the Rangers' success as we discussed recently when we took a look at his play last season in his 2015 Report Card.
There was also a recent update on Rangers' captain Ryan McDonagh's health a few days ago. The captain broke his foot in Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Eastern Conference Final and played the rest of the series in spite of a great deal of pain and discomfort. McDonagh stepped back onto the ice for the first time on August 1st and recently had a phone interview with Dan Rosen about recovering from his injury.
"It's safe to say it's getting better every day and feeling pretty much 100 percent at this point now. We said June 1 was the starting date, so we're more than two-and-a-half months in. I'm back skating on the ice, doing leg strength stuff in the weight room, running and jumping. I'm really trying to put it all behind me now and gear up here for the start of training camp." - McDonagh
McDonagh is currently skating with a large group of NHLers with his sports agency group Octagon and will be returning to New York to join the Rangers for their training camp in September. McDonagh did spend a month in a boot but did not have to undergo surgery this offseason.
Although the regular season was more than a little bit up-and-down for the Rangers' young captain, his play drastically improved in the postseason. The Rangers leaned on their workhorse captain throughout the playoffs and even after his broken foot he was still a crucial ingredient in the Rangers' postseason success before the club fell to the Lightning at the Garden in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
It wasn't just Zuccarello and McDonagh who were banged up in the 2015 Playoffs. In addition to Derick Brassard's wrist injury that required surgery, three Blueshirts' defensemen needed repair after the postseason. Dan Girardi underwent an bursa excision on his ankle, Marc Staal had a bone chip removed from his ankle, and Keith Yandle suffered a shoulder sprain that he had been dealing with after a hit with Blake Comeau in Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
All teams play through bumps and bruises in the playoffs, but it is pretty clear that the Rangers had more than their fair share of walking wounded in the lineup and it goes without saying that they were all key players. Brassard, Girardi, Staal, and Yandle are all expected to be good to go for training camp in just under a month's time.
Top goaltending prospect Mackenzie Skapski also had to undergo surgery this offseason and will not be ready in time for training camp or the preseason. After the club announced that Skapski had hip surgery (labral tear in right hip) on June 2nd this summer his recovery timeline was placed at 4-5 months. Skapsi, who served as Cam Talbot's backup for nearly two months last season when Henrik Lundqvist was out with his scary injury, did an interview with Jim Cerny during the Rangers' Youth Training Camp in the middle of July and talked about his recovery.
"Things are progressing just how I want them. Things are right on track, so I can't complain. It was a 'wear and tear type' of injury and eventually we needed to get it done and it just so happened that I had to get it done this year. I feel grew now and I'm expecting a full, speedy recovery." - Skapski
Thus far there has been nothing but good news for the Rangers and the injuries they have had to deal with in the offseason. A slew of successful surgeries and a few months of rest and rehabilitation means that the Rangers will only be without Mackenzie Skapski at the start of training camp which is mercifully just around the corner. Even with the Henrik Lundqvist injury and a few big names out of the lineup for extended periods of time, the Rangers got off relatively easy in their man games lost to injury in 2014-15. With any luck, the same will be true for a deeper, hungry Rangers club that has plenty of new faces for the 2015-16 season.
As always, thank you for reading and let's go Rangers.