It turns out Kevin Klein’s back issue was a little more serious than first thought.
The Rangers’ veteran defenseman originally hurt himself during warmups before Thursday night’s 2-1 shootout victory at Toronto. The back spams continued Friday, when he didn’t practice, and coach Alain Vigneault said he didn’t expect Klein to be available for the weekend back-to-back, starting Saturday against the Devils at Prudential Center and finishing with Sunday’s Garden match against the Blue Jackets.
“Just seized up on him more than we expected,” Vigneault said. “So we’ll see how he is Monday and go from there.”
The Rangers seemingly have gotten a lot of breakaways lately, and captain Ryan McDonagh has sprung most of them with long stretch passes up the middle.
McDonagh said the forwards aren’t trying to cheat, leaving the defensive zone early trying to gain these breakaways. Instead, they’re working on reading the opposing team’s dump-ins and trying to get behind them while making a line change.
“You get that chemistry,” McDonagh said. “Trying to pick off that dump-in play, if you can read that and knock it down quick and get them in the midst of a change, that’s when you can take advantage of it.”
Rick Nash had two breakaways in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday, and buried his second one to tie the game, 2-2.
“Nasher obviously has a good eye for when you have those opportunities,” McDonagh said. “He’s not cheating, we have full possession, so it’s a good read by him. Guy with experience knows when there is an opportunity there.”
Forward Brandon Pirri returned to the lineup Thursday after having been a healthy scratch for the previous nine games. The power-play specialist helped the struggling unit, which didn’t score on either of its opportunities, but managed to create the game-tying goal from J.T. Miller 10:50 into the third period, just two seconds after a power play had ended.
“Getting that late one — even though it wasn’t on the power play, it was the result of a power play — that was a move in the right direction,” Pirri said.
As for his own even-strength game, Pirri was happy while playing on a line with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast.
“I wanted to focus on shooting the puck, but also making smart plays in our own zone,” Pirri said. “As the game went on, I got more comfortable.”
Veteran defenseman Dan Girardi missed Friday’s practice, but Vigneault called it a “maintenance” day, and added, “he should be fine.”
With Klein hurt, the Rangers only have six healthy defensemen.
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