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Defenseman Kevin Klein surprise scratch for Rangers

Kevin Klein #8 of the New York Rangers

Kevin Klein #8 of the New York Rangers laughs after missing an empty net as he was searching for his third goal of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

TORONTO — Defenseman Kevin Klein, who looked fine in the morning skate at Air Canada Center, was a surprise scratch Thursday night with an upper-body injury, the Rangers announced.

The first indication came when Klein was not on the ice for warm-ups. Spare blueliner Adam Clendening took Klein’s spot on the third pair with Brady Skjei. Klein had the flu last week and also didn’t dress against the Islanders in Brooklyn.

Klein is 3-11-14 in 54 games after scoring nine goals in each of the previous two seasons. It was Clendening’s 22nd game of the season; he had one goal and eight points before Thursday night.

Besides Klein, the Rangers’ scratches were healthy ones: forwards Pavel Buchnevich and Matt Puempel. It was the second healthy scratch for Buchnevich in the last four games. He did not dress against the Islanders on Feb. 16, then played about 11 minutes in the next two games. Buchnevich has one assist in his last 12 games.

Vigneault lauds Vesey

Coach Alain Vigneault continues to sing the praises of rookie Jimmy Vesey, who has played his way back into the top six. “He’s an easy guy to coach,” Vigneault said of the Harvard grad before Thursday night’s game. “He wants to learn, he’s driven, has a great work ethic, a kid that’s not afraid to go to the net, not afraid to go to the tough areas. He has a good skill set and is getting better with every game.”

Ice chips

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, working the phones before next Wednesday’s trade deadline, made the trip . . . Each team had won on the road in the season series: Toronto 4-2 five weeks ago and the Rangers 5-2 here on Jan. 19.

New York Sports