GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers continue their due diligence as they explore a deal for a defenseman before Wednesday’s trade deadline, but in the meantime, they will have only six healthy defensemen for Saturday’s game in New Jersey and tomorrow’s game against Columbus at Madison Square Garden.
Kevin Klein, who was a surprise scratch before the 2-1 shootout win in Toronto on Thursday night, has been ruled out of both weekend games with back spasms, and he could miss more.
“We’ll see how he is Monday and go from there,” coach Alain Vigneault said Friday.
Adam Clendening again will dress. Dan Girardi spent the day off the ice for maintenance, but Vig neault expected him to play in the 5 p.m. game Saturday at Prudential Center.
Vig neault will split the goaltending duties in the back-to-back set. Antti Raanta will play against the Devils and Henrik Lundqvist, who has started five straight games and allowed only 17 goals in nine starts in February, will return against the Blue Jackets tomorrow.
Raanta is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage against the Devils in his career, including a shutout in his last appearance against them at the Garden on Dec. 11. “You just keep trying to do the right things in practice to be ready,” said Raanta, who made 30 saves in his last start, a 3-2 win in Columbus on Feb. 13.
Given the busy schedule, Vig neault said his preseason hope to keep Lundqvist at about 60 games, to be fresh for the postseason, remains possible.
It’s presumed that left wing Brandon Pirri, who sat for nine games before Thursday night’s win, will be in the lineup again and Pavel Buchnevich and Matt Puempel will sit.
“As the game went on, I got more comfortable [with the pace], and getting that late [goal] — it wasn’t on the power play but it was a result of the power play — was a move in the right direction,” said Pirri, who had the secondary assist on J.T. Miller’s tying goal from the crease. “I want to produce. I missed the net a couple times, but sometimes you get a fortunate bounce and we capitalize.”
Vigneault issued his usual warning about taking an opponent for granted. Cory Schneider, who will be in the crease for the Devils, “is playing better than he was early on,” Vigneault said, adding that the Devils work hard and compete. “I don’t remember the last time we’ve had an easy game.”