GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Rookie center Brett Howden spoke to reporters after practice and looked fine and said he felt good, but the Rangers called up center Lias Andersson from AHL Hartford anyway, the team announced Monday evening.
Andersson, 20, was beaten out in training camp for the last roster spot by Howden, 20, who has gotten off to a fabulous start, scoring three goals and six assists for nine points in the team’s first 14 games. But Howden left Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres after a scary wipeout into the end boards where he slammed into the boards hard and then was mashed even further by Sabres forward Vladimir Sobotka. Though the incident looked scary, Howden showed up in the Rangers locker room after practice Monday and told reporters he felt good and was “lucky’’ he was not seriously injured.
“I feel good to be here, and I’m just kind of taking it day by day,’’ Howden said. “All the guys were asking me what [my injury] was, because it looked like it could have been multiple things, but I’m really lucky that it’s nothing serious. It was kind of just an awkward play.’’
Rangers coach David Quinn seemed genuinely pleasantly surprised that Howden, whom he’d said had an upper-body issue and had been taken out of the game for “precautionary reasons,’’ was OK, and while he said the team would “err on the side of caution, as opposed to being aggressive and throwing him out there,’’ he had not dismissed the possibility that Howden could play Tuesday, when the Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens.
“He seems to be fine,’’ Quinn said after practice of Howden. “We’re still going to take it day by day, but he felt good today. We held him out [of practice] for precautionary reasons, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.’’
But hours later, the Rangers called up Andersson, who had been playing the No. 1 center role for Hartford and who had accumulated four goals, eight assists (12 points) and 15 penalty minutes in 14 games for the Wolf Pack. No corresponding roster move was announced, as the Rangers were under the 23-man roster limit, with defenseman Freddie Claesson (upper body) and center Boo Nieves (concussion) still on injured reserve. Defenseman Adam McQuaid (lower body) has missed four straight games and on Sunday Quinn said his status had been changed, to “week-to-week,’’ rather than “day-to-day.’’
If Howden is healthy, the Rangers would now have five centers — Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Howden, Filip Chytil and Andersson — plus forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Spooner, who also play center but mostly have played at wing this season. That would seem to suggest that either Howden is expected to be out a while, or there is another roster move coming. Chytil has struggled (no goals, three assists in 14 games) and his ice time has diminished over the past few weeks. Perhaps the organization intends to send him down to the AHL for a while to try and get him going.