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McDonagh, Klein injuries diminish Rangers defense

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers were already thin on defense because of Dan Boyle's hand injury and John Moore's five-game suspension. They got lighter Saturday when captain Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein left the game against the Winnipeg Jets in the first period with injuries.

McDonagh sustained a separated shoulder after getting hit hard into the corner board by Jets forward Evander Kane at 11:46. Klein exited with a left foot contusion at 3:12, a likely result of blocking a shot by Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. New York lost 1-0 in a shootout.

McDonagh and Klein are expected to have MRIs on Sunday. Moves will likely be made in order for the Rangers to have a full lineup for their game Monday against the St. Louis Blues.

Boyle isn't due back until later this month. Moore won't be eligible to play again until Nov. 11 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"All of us have to help out," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "When you have great players out I think everyone has to step up for a little bit to help out in different areas. I think we did it [Saturday night]."

Dan Girardi led the Rangers in ice time at 34:50 and Marc Staal was second at 29:33, but Matt Hunwick and Michael Kostka, considered the seventh and eighth defensemen on the Rangers depth chart entering the season, made key contributions in elevated roles to help New York secure one point against Winnipeg despite not scoring a goal.

Hunwick played 27:58 and Kostka 21:56. They combined for six of New York's 38 shots on goal and four of the 20 blocked shots.

For Hunwick, it was the most minutes he's played since he logged 28:22 on April 11, 2013 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the most minutes Kostka played in a regular-season game since April 25, 2013, when he logged 23:43 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I thought Hunwick and Kostka both played really, really good games," said defenseman Marc Staal, who played 29:33. "They were solid, confident, made some good plays. That was great to see. We need them to obviously step up and play that way until we get healthy again. I thought they were great."

Girardi said he, Staal, Hunwick and Kostka were able to handle the extra workload in part because the Rangers hadn't played since this past Monday against the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers were still able to control the puck for most of the night and outshoot the Jets 38-25.

"If it's a back-to-back it might be a different story, but we took care of ourselves, got some rest," Girardi said. "We just have to get some more rest now."

Staal said he's confident the Rangers can overcome the depleted defense if they play the way they did Saturday, when they had an aggressive forecheck and the defensemen were helped by the backchecking forwards.

"As a team we were better in our own end," he said. "A lot of shots coming from the outside. When our forwards are backchecking as hard as they are it just makes our life a lot easier and we're able to play a lot more offense. We were playing offense a lot of the night, which helped."

If McDonagh and/or Klein can't play Monday, the Rangers can look to acquire a defensemen or two through trade, or dip into their American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

If they go the AHL route, the likely options are Connor Allen and Dylan McIlrath. Allen has five points and a minus-1 rating in eight games; McIlrath has no points, a minus-1 rating and 21 penalty minutes in eight games.

"We're going to have to rally around it not only as defensemen but as a team, and make sure we have a concerted effort of playing more solid in our own end and paying attention to that part of the game," Staal said. "It's on everyone to step up their game."


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