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Rangers Lose Zibanejad In Loss to Panthers

Center Expected to Miss 6-to-8 Weeks With Broken Fibula

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The Rangers lost more than just a 3-2 shootout decision to Florida Sunday as center Mika Zibanejad is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken fibula.

Zibanejad crashed feet first into the end boards behind the Rangers goal 41 seconds into overtime and remained down for several minutes before being helped off the ice.

"Every team has got injuries," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We don't expect to be any different than anybody else. Every coach says it in these moments: this is an opportunity for somebody else to get more ice time. I'm confident that whoever we decide to put in that spot will do the job for us."

Things started well for New York, playing its first game at home in 12 days following an eight-day road trip that saw the club go 3-1.

Chris Kreider opened the scoring in the first period with his fourth of the season - and first since Oct. 17 - to put the Rangers ahead. The Blueshirts outshot Florida 14-5 through the opening 20 minutes of play.

Video: FLA@NYR: Kreider rips a wrister past Reimer

After Florida tied the game in the second period, Zibanejad put New York back in front early in the third period after he redirected a shot by Mats Zuccarello into the net for his fifth goal of the season.

Florida would again tie the game just over six minutes later when Aaron Ekblad's shot from the point got a piece of J.T. Miller and got through Henrik Lundqvist 7:54 into the final period.

"Obviously we want guys to block shots and he's trying," said Lundqvist, who made 28 saves. "From that distance, I should stop it if no one is in front of me, so it's kind of that conversation we had that if he doesn't have time to get there with his body maybe just leave that shot for me. It's easy to have that answer when you're sitting here. But you see what happens - he's trying to get there with his stick, but obviously it fooled me a little bit"

Zuccarello and Brandon Pirri were stopped in the shootout and both Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov scored to lift the Panthers to the 3-2 win.

The Rangers finished with 35 shots on goal, but were 0-for-3 with the man advantage. While the high amount of shots are a positive, Derek Stepan said he felt more could have been done to generate more offense.

"Every time you have a game where you might have 35 shots, but you feel that you left some out there, obviously everyone is going to tell you that you have to get pucks and bodies to the net, you have to get screens," Stepan said. "Goaltenders are too good nowadays; [if] they see the puck they are going to make the save."

The bigger story, though, is the loss of Zibanejad, who has 15 points in 19 games in his first season with the Blueshirts.

With Zibanejad on the mend, the Rangers still have 12 healthy forwards, as center Oscar Lindberg was the healthy scratch for the Rangers after Josh Jooris returned from an injury. Vigneault also mentioned Pirri and the returning Jooris as options to replace Zibanejad.

Vigneault would not rule out a roster move, though he did say the Rangers would not make a move before tomorrow night's game in Pittsburgh.

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