GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was Picture Day for the Rangers, so practice started a few minutes late. When it did, Mika Zibanejad again was not participating, which means the Blueshirts’ No. 1 center is out for Tuesday’s home game against the Penguins. Coach David Quinn suggested that he’ll be out beyond that, too.
“We’re thinking in the next day or two, there’ll be more progress and he’ll be in a better position,’’ Quinn said. “He obviously won’t make the trip to Florida, but we’re hopeful he will be getting closer to getting back on ice and getting back in the lineup.’’
It’s been more than two weeks since Zibanejad left the Oct. 27 game against the Bruins after taking a high hit from center Patrice Bergeron late in the first period. At the time, the Rangers said Zibanejad was suffering from an upper-body injury and that his status was day-to-day.
After the game, Quinn was asked directly if Zibanejad had suffered a concussion. He said no. Several days later, after a practice, he repeated that there was no concussion and said the problem was more in the neck area.
Zibanejad skated on his own last week and last Wednesday skated with the team, wearing a no-contact jersey. He didn’t make the trip to play the Hurricanes and didn’t take part in the open practice at Lasker Rink in Central Park on Saturday. On Sunday, he missed his sixth straight game when the Rangers lost to the Panthers in a shootout.
Quinn said the Rangers were not being overly optimistic when they originally said his status was day-to-day. “No, I think some injuries are unpredictable,’’ he said. “And he’s got one that is a little bit unpredictable.’’
Zibanejad was the Rangers’ leading scorer when he went out, but they have gone 4-1-1 without him.
“I think guys have elevated their game,’’ Quinn said. “It’s an opportunity for people to step up and take a little bit more ownership of the role that they’re capable of doing. And, obviously, we’ve got some great goaltending throughout that stretch, and we’ve been opportunistic on the power play. That being said, I’m dying for him to come back.’’
Quinn said Zibanejad is “getting a little rest . . . so when he does come back, we’re not going to do what we just went through, where he gets out there, he gets taken off the ice. When he does come back, we want to make sure that it’s full steam ahead.’’
Notes & quotes: The Penguins won’t have their No. 1 center on Tuesday either. Coach Mike Sullivan said Sidney Crosby, who suffered an undisclosed injury Saturday against the Blackhawks, would not make the trip to New York . . . Alexandar Georgiev will start in goal Tuesday, Quinn said . . . Rangers and Knicks owner James Dolan was present for Picture Day and stayed to watch practice.