GREENBURGH, N.Y. - With the Metropolitan Division final against the Capitals on tap later this week, the Rangers will start without top-line winger Mats Zuccarello, who is out indefinitely, but defenseman Kevin Klein's broken arm has healed and he will rejoin the lineup.
Zuccarello, who was struck on the left side of the head by Ryan McDonagh's hard shot while battling in front of the Penguins' net late in the first period in Game 5 and did not return, is sidelined with an upper-body injury, a spokesman said Monday.
The team offered no other specifics, but it is suspected that the Norwegian winger, who had 15 goals and 49 points in the regular season, has a concussion.
"He brings a lot to the table, the way he plays," Henrik Lundqvist said after an optional practice. "A lot of energy. He can open up the game with his passing, so we're going to miss that. We don't know when he's going to be back. We just have to wait and see. He's definitely an important player to this team."
Zuccarello's absence will change three lines. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said winger Martin St. Louis will move up from the third line to skate with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash in Zuccarello's spot. The second line of Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller will stay intact, but Jesper Fast will move from the fourth line to the third line, with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes, to replace St. Louis. Former San Jose forward James Sheppard, who played 14 games for the Rangers this season, will skate on the fourth line with Dom Moore and Tanner Glass.
A spare forward will be called up from the Hartford Wolfpack, which is in the AHL playoffs, on Wednesday, Vigneault said.
On the positive side, Klein is ready to play after breaking his left arm March 11 against the Capitals. "I don't really notice it and that's a good thing . . . had no issues," he said Monday. "I'm excited for the second round. I feel I can be out there 100 percent. Last week, I could feel it really making a lot of progress. I probably could have played Game 6 [against the Penguins] if we got to that point."
Klein figured it would take a game to regain his timing, although he has been skating for weeks. "Guys pressuring me hard, game situations, you can't really compare," he said.
Vigneault prefers to have three righthanded defensemen in the lineup, so lefty Matt Hunwick is the likely scratch in Game 1. Klein, Dan Boyle and Dan Girardi are the righties.
Sheppard, 27, had two goals after being acquired from the Sharks on March 1. He had two goals, five assists and 14 penalty minutes in 24 postseason games for the Sharks and Wild. Last season, the Sharks coughed up a 3-0 series lead to the Kings and were ousted in seven games.
"They play a very fast system here. We're making plays, we're supporting, you just have to make sure you're at the same pace," Sheppard said. "I'm not saying San Jose was slow. It's just different."
Notes & quotes: The Rangers had played 11 games in 23 days, and McDonagh said the weekend of rest was beneficial . . . Keith Yandle and Marc Staal took maintenance days instead of the optional practice . . . The four Rangers games seen on MSG (and simulcast on MSG Plus) during the first round against the Penguins averaged 4.64 percent of New York-area homes, up 38 percent from last year's first round against the Flyers.
With Neil Best