WASHINGTON - In a blow to the Rangers' defense corps, Kevin Klein will be sidelined three to four weeks after being struck on the left arm by Alex Ovechkin's shot in the final minute of Wednesday's 3-1 road win over the Capitals.
The Rangers did not specify the nature of the injury -- possibly a fracture -- but it is believed that he does not need surgery. The regular season ends April 11, so Klein should return for the playoffs.
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Klein had been sent back to New York Thursday morning, after postgame X-rays, to be examined by team doctors.
The 30-year-old defenseman, who left Verizon Center with his arm wrapped but not in a sling, will be replaced by Matt Hunwick, who has eight assists in 40 games. The cap-strapped Rangers currently are not carrying a seventh defenseman. It is unclear whether they eventually will call up another blueliner from Hartford as a spare.
The Rangers (42-17-7, 91 points), who visited the U.S. Secret Service training center in Maryland during Thursday's off day, will practice Friday, play in Buffalo Saturday and host Florida on Sunday.
Klein's absence leaves the Rangers with just two righty defensemen, Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle. Presumably, Hunwick, 29, a lefthander signed as a free agent last July, will play on the right side on the third pair.
The acquisition of top four defenseman Keith Yandle at the March 2 trade deadline becomes particularly important now. Klein had played in the top four during part of the season, especially early, when injuries to Ryan McDonagh and Boyle kept them out of the lineup for weeks.
Acquired from Nashville for Michael Del Zotto in January 2014, Klein has had a career season offensively -- nine goals and 17 assists -- and is tied for the team lead at plus-24.
Klein's toughness was tested on Dec. 8 when he received 13 stitches to reattach part of his left ear, which was severed by a high stick from Penguins forward Zach Sill. He returned to score the winning goal.
On Wednesday, Klein knew this injury was more serious: He went down on one knee in pain, wincing and cradling the arm before heading to the trainer's room when play stopped.
Hunwick has plenty of experience, having played 332 NHL games, primarily with Boston and Colorado. He and John Moore shared the sixth defenseman's role before Moore was sent to Arizona in the trade for Yandle. Among the possible call-ups in the future are lefties Conor Allen, 25 (9-16-25 in 55 games) and Chris Summers, 27, a 6-2 defensive defenseman who arrived in the Yandle deal and has played 64 NHL games with the Coyotes since 2010, scoring two goals and nine assists, and righty Dylan McIlrath, 22 (4-10-14 in 57 games with 120 penalty minutes).