NEW YORK - The New York Rangers will play their first game without injured captain Ryan Callahan Thursday night when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
Callahan suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder when he and Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot scuffled early in the third period of Tuesday night's game. An MRI confirmed the injury, but Callahan is expected to be back in 10-14 days, which is about 5-7 games.
Considering the worst-case scenario, a maximum of two weeks without their most complete forward seems like good news for the Rangers. Coach John Tortorella, however, didn't see the silver lining in the prognosis.
"I don't want to lose Cally for a day," Tortorella said.
Callahan spoke with reporters Thursday morning and lamented what was essentially an unlucky injury.
"It's tough any time you miss time, especially in a shortened season like this. It's hard," Callahan said. "I wish I was out there. At the same time, injuries happen during the year, and these things are going to happen and it's just a matter of getting back as you as you can. The first days [of rehab] are trying to get it to settle down, the inflammation and things like that. After that, I'll start to be able to strengthen it. Hopefully, they're saying two weeks, 10 to 14 days and I'll be back at it."
The Rangers have been thin at forward this season, and the loss of Callahan only amplifies the problem. For Thursday's game against the Penguins, Tortorella will use defenseman Stu Bickel as a fourth-line forward; blueliner Matt Gilroy will make his season debut in his second go-round with the Rangers.
The line shuffling will likely be fluid throughout the game, but this is what the Rangers should employ at the start of Thursday's game:
Marian Gaborik - Brad Richards - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Taylor Pyatt - Derek Stepan
Mike Rupp - Brian Boyle - Benn Ferriero
Arron Asham - Jeff Halpern - Stu Bickel
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - Matt Gilroy
It will be interesting to see who patrols the front of the net in place of Callahan when the Rangers find themselves on the power play. Taylor Pyatt has spent some time there on the second power-play unit, so it could be him and Brian Boyle trying to obstruct the view of Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Henrik Lundqvist will make his seventh start of the season. Only the Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers have yet to start a backup goaltender this season.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo