BUFFALO — Kevin Klein had an unusual defense partner during Thursday’s morning skate: forward Josh Jooris.
It sent a clear signal that Klein, 31, would be a healthy scratch against the Sabres. At one point during the drills, assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom, in charge of the defense, spoke alone with Klein, who didn’t seem pleased with the decision.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault gave two reasons for the switch to Adam Clendening, who had played in only six games: “One, there’s no doubt, in my estimation, Kleiner can play better than what he’s played, and the other part is, since losing Mika [Zibanejad, broken fibula] and that righthanded shot on the power play . . . we felt it was time to give Adam a look on ‘D’ and on the power play.”
Clendening had an assist in 14:21, but his holding penalty on Jack Eichel led to the goal that tied the score at 3 in the third period.
Klein, in his fourth season as a Ranger after being acquired from Nashville, rarely has been a healthy scratch, but injuries have sidelined him. He missed the first three games of the season with back spasms and broke his thumb last February. He also broke his left arm blocking a shot in March 2015, which kept him out of the first round of the playoffs.
Nash, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello were the four Rangers named on All-Star ballots released Tuesday. Eleven players will be picked from the Metropolitan Division for the three-on-three tournament Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. Write-ins are accepted . . . Jimmy Vesey had one shot in 17:50 and was booed from the first moment he touched the puck — and the volume kept increasing. It peaked when he was announced as assisting on Rick Nash’s goal. Buffalo, which traded for his rights from Nashville, was one of the suitors he spurned to sign with the Rangers . . . Matt Puempel did not return after the second intermission after blocking a shot. Vigneault said after the game that he did not know the severity of the injury . . . Lundqvist is four wins behind Dominik Hasek (389) for the most by a European-born goaltender in NHL history.