Last season, the Rangers had tremendous luck when it came to injuries, losing a remarkably low 31 manpower games to injury or illness. However, just six weeks into the 2009-10 campaign the Rangers have seen that last year’s good fortune regarding injuries has not carried over into a new season.
Just one look at their last game in Calgary on Saturday night provided a glimpse into what a difference a year can make.
|Center Brandon Dubinsky will miss a few weeks of action with the hand injury he suffered blocking a shot last weekend in Calgary. |
Already without No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist
and rugged forward Donald Brashear in the lineup due to minor injuries, the Rangers lost their captain, Chris Drury, to a concussion just 49 seconds into the contest, and another top center, Brandon Dubinsky
, who broke a bone in his right hand while blocking a shot in the second.
“Over the course of the year you have to expect guys to get hurt,” said Lundqvist, who plans to be back in goal when the Rangers return to action on Thursday against the Atlanta Thrashers. “But I think the thing is to never have an excuse for not being ready when you are out there. It’s never an excuse for not playing great.”
The Rangers lived up to Lundqvist’s words on Saturday night. Although they would eventually fall to the Flames by a 3-1 score, they battled and played one of their better all-around games so far this season.
Most important, not one player in the dressing room was looking for an excuse for losing the game. Two forwards were lost during the game, but the remaining players forged on and battled until the final horn sounded.
Those facts were not lost on the team’s head coach, John Tortorella.
“I thought it was one of the better games we’ve played in all facets,” said Tortorella. “I think the chances were 17-6 in our advantage, and it was one of our better games with the forecheck. So, we did a lot of good things.”
After practice on Monday, Tortorella said that “obviously Dubinsky is out an extended period of time”, but that he is not sure how soon Drury could return to the lineup. Drury did ride the stationary bike on Monday, and is being evaluated by the team’s medical personnel. Tortorella did not completely rule Drury out of Thursday’s game at The Garden.
Whether or not the Rangers will be missing one or two of their centers on Thursday, Tortorella is not sure that the club needs to look to its minor league affiliate in Hartford for replacements. Tortorella would not rule out the possibility of a call-up from Hartford, but said that it was no guarantee, either.
“You don’t need to have four centers,” said the head coach. “Maybe that fourth line could be different people that I bounce around from other lines. We have a couple of extra forwards here that didn’t play (Saturday), and (Brashear) is getting better.”
The injuries to Drury and Dubinsky created more ice-time for young pivots Brian Boyle
, 23, and Artem Anisimov
, 21, against the Flames. Both of those youngsters should expect a healthy dose of extra responsibility moving forward.
“It’s an opportunity for somebody else to step in and get more minutes and maybe show the coaches they deserve more ice-time,” explained alternate captain Vinny Prospal, who will shift from left wing to center with Drury and Dubinsky out. “It’s very unfortunate we lose two guys like that, but on the other hand it’s always an opportunity for somebody else.”
Another forward who is hobbled is Enver Lisin. After blocking a shot with the inside of his foot against the Bruins ten days ago, Lisin sat out one game, and played in the past two. However, he did not practice on Monday.
As for Lundqvist, Tortorella said that “Hank should be back” in goal on Thursday.
But the bottom line for the Rangers is that using injuries as an excuse for accepting less than optimal results is not an option.
“As players, if you are called upon, it’s your job to get it done,” said Sean Avery
. “And guys filling spots makes good teams good and great teams great.”