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Rangers expect Michael Grabner to return on Thursday

New York Rangers right wing Michael Grabner (40)

New York Rangers right wing Michael Grabner (40) waits for a pass during the first period on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Michael Grabner should be back for the Rangers’ next game — Thursday in Winnipeg — which will ease the stress on the team’s forwards, four of whom are sidelined.

Grabner, who has a team-leading 13 goals, went home to Austria to attend his grandmother’s funeral, and will meet the team in Winnipeg.

“He’s definitely a big factor as far as our speed element, everybody knows how quick Grabs has been as far as creating turnovers, jumping on loose pucks, using his speed to back off the opposition’s D,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s been real good for us shorthanded . . . Bbut that’s part of the game, you don’t have all your players every game.”

Mika Zibanejad missed his ninth game with a broken fibula, an injury that occurred against Florida on Nov. 20, and isn’t expected back until next month. Pavel Buchnevich, who has been working on strengthening his core muscles to prevent a recurrence of back spasms, just began skating on his own Monday, and will likely miss at least another week.

Rick Nash (groin), who had five shots, and Matt Puempel (concussion), who played just 2:52, will miss the Winnipeg visit and the Chicago game Friday. At least one call-up is expected before the Rangers leave for Canada on Wednesday.

The Rangers had 77 shot attempts (38 on goal, 28 blocked and 11 misses). The Islanders had 44.

And that’s with a lot of firepower on the sideline. Nash, who played 8:13, has 11 goals. Zibanejad had five goals and 15 points in 19 games, and Buchnevich was 4-4-8 in 10 games.

Goaltending sequence

Antti Raanta (5-1-0), whose last start was in the 2-0 loss to the Senators on Nov. 27, likely will face the Jets on Thursday. Raanta’s only career start against the Jets was a 5-1 loss Dec. 23, 2014, when he played for the Blackhawks. Henrik Lundqvist, who started his fourth straight game Tuesday, could then start in Chicago on Friday.

Ice chips

Marek Hrivik, the winger who was summoned from Hartford to sub for Grabner, stepped into the lineup on the fourth line and played 10:07, with two shots . . . Center Josh Jooris and defenseman Adam Clendening were healthy scratches.

New York Sports