PHILADELPHIA — Defenseman Marc Staal missed Wednesday’s game and Saturday’s match in Columbus with an upper-body injury, coach Alain Vigneault said.
Staal, who had played all 40 games and ranked third on the Rangers in average ice time (19:33), was hurt in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Sabres, said Vigneault, who offered no other details. Staal played 19:15 against the Sabres with two hits and one blocked shot. It appeared that Staal had some difficulty skating at times against the Coyotes and Avalanche last week.
Without Staal (3-3-6, plus-10) the defense pairs were juggled: Lefty Brady Skjei was switched to the right side with Ryan McDonagh; Adam Clendening subbed for Staal, a lefty, and was paired with Kevin Klein, and Nick Holden moved back to the left side to play with Dan Girardi.
Clendening, who has played nine games (0-3-3), last dressed on Dec. 23 against the Minnesota Wild, when Skjei was a healthy scratch, and played 18:40. The Rangers did not call up an extra defenseman but could before Saturday’s game.
Buchnevich getting closer
Pavel Buchnevich, who has missed 26 games with back issues, could be loaned to Hartford for conditioning during the Rangers’ NHL-mandated break that runs from Jan. 8-12, a team spokesman said.
A conditioning loan can last a maximum of 14 days.
The rookie Russian winger, who last played on Nov. 12 against Calgary and is 4-4-8 in 10 games, has been skating regularly and working out for more than a week. He practiced in a non-contact jersey on Monday, and afterward Vigneault said he was moving closer to skating in a regular jersey.
If the Rangers assign him to the Wolf Pack, here’s the team’s upcoming schedule: Hartford hosts Lehigh Valley on Friday and Bridgeport on Saturday, visits Providence Sunday, travels to Rochester next Wednesday and St. John’s on Jan. 13.