Just in case that right side of the defense didn’t look bad enough, the Rangers played Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the league-leading Capitals at the Garden without Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein.
Girardi is supposed to be out “around two weeks,” according to coach Alain Vigneault, with a deep gash on the inside of his right ankle that just won’t heal. He was hurt while blocking a shot Feb. 7, and although it was stitched up and he missed the next two games, the wound never healed properly although he had played the previous seven contests before Tuesday.
“Still a big hole there,” Vigneault said, “and our doctors feel that we need to shut him down.”
Klein missed his fourth straight game with a back ailment that flared up during pregame warm-ups Feb. 23 in Toronto. He did take the ice after his teammates for a quick twirl on Tuesday morning, and Vigneault was hopeful he would practice with the team Wednesday before leaving for Boston, where they will play the Bruins on Thursday night.
With only five healthy defensemen, the Rangers called up Steven Kampfer from Hartford and he made his Blueshirts’ debut. Kampfer, 28, was in his second stint with the organization, coming back earlier this season in the deal that sent Dylan McIlrath to Florida.
He looked out of place in going minus-2 over 15:44 of ice time.
The Rangers sent 21-year-old Russian winger Pavel Buchnevich down to AHL Hartford after he had been a scratch for three of the previous five games (also while battling the flu). The Rangers could have placed Klein and Girardi on injured reserve to make room for new trade addition Brendan Smith on the 23-man roster, but they also wanted to get Buchnevich some games down at Hartford, who play host to Springfield on Wednesday, and are home for a weekend back-to-back starting Saturday.
“Pavel needs to play,” general manager Jeff Gorton said, “and if he wasn’t going to play [Tuesday] night, then I thought we needed to get him down to Hartford to play some games.”
Center Mika Zibanejad was a late scratch with a presumed left wrist/hand ailment, suffered when he blocked a shot near the end of the Rangers 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. Zibanejad took the morning skate and declared himself “all good.” But after warm-ups, Vigneault said he “just couldn’t handle the puck.”
Forward Chris Kreider went to the locker room with 10:45 remaining in the first period, and didn’t return until the start of the second. He was a shell of himself over the 10:17 of ice time he played in the second and third periods.
“He had a lower-body injury, didn’t know if he could come back,” Vigneault said, “and he tried to come back.”
Minor league defenseman Mat Bodie came to the Rangers and asked for a trade, so Gorton sent the 26-year-old to the Sabres in exchange for 23-year-old forward Daniel Catenacci.
Catennaci never has played a NHL game, but the 5-foot-9, 191-pounder has 246 games of AHL experience over parts of five seasons, registering 43 goals and 89 points, along with 175 penalty minutes.
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