Just four days after losing alternate captain Derek Stepan for the next 4-6 weeks due to a pair of broken ribs, the Rangers were dealt another injury-related blow on Tuesday when an MRI revealed that defenseman Kevin Klein had suffered a strained oblique and would miss the next 2-3 weeks of action.
Klein was originally forced out of Monday's 4-3 home-ice win over the Carolina Hurricanes early in the first period with what the team was calling simply "a strain". The MRI on Tuesday confirmed the severity of the injury and the exact location.
Head coach Alain Vigneault, who added that Klein received treatment for tightness in the oblique area prior to Monday's game, stated that he doesn't see the team calling anyone up from the minor leagues just yet, meaning that the Blueshirts will continue along with 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen even without Stepan and Klein available to play.
"I think for the next couple of days since we're here (in the New York area) we're going to stay this way," explained Vigneault. "Prior to going out west (early next week) we will look at different possibilities as far as promoting other players."
Klein's injury affords rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath the opportunity to get an extended look in the lineup. McIlrath has appeared in only six games so far this season, playing in two successive games on two separate occasions. He has played with confidence and added a real physical presence to the lineup when he has played.
"Obviously Dylan is going to slip in there and this is going to give him an opportunity, at least for the next 2-3 weeks here, to show that he's NHL-ready," Vigneault said of McIlrath, who has yet to record a point while totaling 24 penalty minutes so far this year.
The loss of Klein, similar to that of Stepan up front, is a big one for the Rangers. Klein has been extremely reliable at both ends of the rink this season, arguably the team's most consistent defenseman. Klein is tied for seventh in the NHL with a +11 plus/minus mark, and has scored three goals and contributed six points while averaging 21:02 worth of ice time per game--second most on the club.
McIlrath, like Klein, is a right-handed shot; and he will likely skate on the third pairing with Keith Yandle. This puts veteran right-hander Dan Boyle in a bigger role on the second pair with Marc Staal. The third righty is Dan Girardi, who played nearly 28 minutes with the Rangers down to five d-men on Monday night, and he skates on the top pair alongside team captain Ryan McDonagh.
Boyle has been in and out of the lineup recently, alternating with McIlrath, and had been a healthy scratch in two straight games before returning Monday and playing extremely well against Carolina. Boyle logged a season-high 22:17, picked up a power play assist, recorded two shots on goal, two hits, and two blocked shots, and was a +2.
The Rangers next face off with the Islanders at the Barclay's Center on Wednesday night.