Change is in the wind.
Rangers left wing Chris Kreider will miss his second straight game Wednesday night when the Bruins visit Madison Square Garden, but his neck spasms are subsiding.
And Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich, recovering from back spasms, is “real close” to be taken off injured reserve and possibly will play Friday in Raleigh, coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday morning.
But the coming return to health of the two Rangers forwards will have a price.
The team soon will have 24 players available, with a roster maximum of 23.
Translation: A tough choice will have to be made. Someone has to be waived, placed on injured reserve or traded to get down to 23.
The Rangers are carrying 14 forwards and eight defensemen, so that’s where the trim will have to come.
On the blueline, Dylan McIlrath, a former first-round pick in 2010, has played just one game and appears to be the prime candidate for waivers or a trade. If he clears waivers, he would be assigned to Hartford.
The chance of Adam Clendening, 23, who has played five games and on the second power-play unit, being claimed might be higher. Brady Skjei is waiver-exempt but played his best game of the season on Sunday against the Coyotes. Skjei is skating on the third pair with Dan Girardi tonight; McIlrath and Clendening are healthy scratches.
Upfront, the situation is trickier. Buchnevich is also waiver-exempt but adds some sizzle to the top nine. Center Josh Jooris stepped in on the fourth line as Oscar Lindberg recovered from off-season hip surgery, but Lindberg is back and Jooris moved to right wing. Jooris, signed to a one-year contract, also would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
Kreider was seen walking through the corridor after the morning skate, and when asked how he was feeling, gave a thumbs-up. Vigneault said Kreider was receiving treatment and riding the bike, but he was uncertain whether the team’s dynamic winger would make Thursday’s trip to Carolina for Friday’s game.
At this morning’s briefing, Vigneault said he envisions a line with Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello when Kreider is healthy. It appears he has no plans to alter the trio of Jimmy Vesey, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. That could leave a third pairing of Buchnevich or Grabner, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Grabner, the former Islander, and Jesper Fast, a smart, solid, two-way right wing, don’t appear to be going anywhere.
Brandon Pirri and Lindberg would seem to have the edge over Jooris — if the Rangers decide to cut the forwards, rather than the defense corps.
Bruins down two in net
The Rangers have a chance to raise their record to 5-2 against the Bruins, who have lost their top two goaltenders — Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin — to injury. Zane McIntrye, who played 29 minutes in relief of Malcom Subban on Tuesday, will make his first NHL start for the Bruins (3-3). Henrik Lundqvist (3-2, 2.42 GAA, .901 save percentage) will make his sixth start of the season.
Projected Rangers lines
Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
J.T. Miller- Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello
Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast
Brandon Pirri-Oscar Lindberg-Josh Jooris
Ryan McDonagh-Nick Holden
Marc Staal-Kevin Klein
Brady Skjei-Dan Girardi