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Good and Bad News on Rangers Injury Front

Zibanejad, Kreider Expected to Play; Fast Out 2-3 Weeks; Grabner Questionable

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Mika Zibanejad took the cautious route Tuesday night when he opted to sit out the Rangers' matchup with the Capitals at Madison Square Garden because of a hand injury he suffered when he was struck by a puck late in Sunday's loss to Columbus.

"It didn't feel like it was right," Zibanejad said. "I took the position of taking the night off."

The decision seems to have paid off as he avoided injuring the hand further against Washington and was back at practice Wednesday.

"There wasn't really a reason to play when it felt like that," Zibanejad said. "It feels fine [now]. It feels better today. It's a minor thing but it should be good to go for tomorrow."

Zibanejad added that if it were a playoff game, he would have been able to play.

While Zibanejad ruled himself good to go for Thursday in Boston, head coach Alain Vigneault said he'd be evaluated Thursday before ruling the center available.

"He skated well this morning," Vigneault said. "As far as him handling the puck and being able to shoot it, he was obviously miles ahead of what he was yesterday."

Chris Kreider also missed practice with a maintenance day. Like Zibanejad, he will be evaluated in Boston, but Vigneault said he expects Kreider to play.

The outlook wasn't as positive for Jesper Fast, who is expected to be sidelined for two-to-three weeks with an upper-body injury.

Vigneault, though, did try to find positives in the bad news.

"There's no doubt he's a big part of our penalty killing," Vigneault said of Fast. "A guy that we can slot from fourth line to top line depending on who we're playing. A competitive player. Obviously it's a loss for us but it's an opportunity for some other guys who have been wanting to play and wanted a bigger role to step up and get the job done for us."

Michael Grabner left practice after injuring his hip. Vigneault said his status for Thursday is "up in the air." If he or another forward cannot play, Vigneault said a player would be recalled from Hartford (AHL).

Vigneault was hopeful on Tuesday that defenseman Kevin Klein would practice on Wednesday, but the blueliner was unable to after missing his fourth straight game with back spasms. Vigneault said he's hopeful he'll skate Thursday in Boston.

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