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Rangers must make up for loss of Kevin Klein against Penguins

Kevin Klein #8 of the New York Rangers

Kevin Klein #8 of the New York Rangers celebrates his third period goal against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers went 11-5 to close the season without injured defenseman Kevin Klein, and will play at least one more game without his services.

Klein, whose left forearm was broken by Alex Ovechkin's wrister in Washington on March 11, has not healed sufficiently to practice and he has been ruled out of Thursday night's Game 1 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

"He's day-to-day," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's not quite ready yet."

The rugged Klein, who had a career-high nine goals and 26 points in 65 games and was plus-24, has been skating and stickhandling, but "a broken bone takes time to heal. We said four to six weeks, we're in that range," said Vigneault, who added Klein would not practice today. The Rangers' next practice is Friday; Game 2 is Saturday at the Garden.

Matt Hunwick played 55 games this season, including 15 with Klein sidelined, and he will start on the third pair with Keith Yandle. Hunwick, a deceptively quick skater who played in the U.S. National Development program and at the University of Michigan, is far from a liability. He is averaging 15:49 per game this season and is 2-9-11 and a plus-17. In 2009-10, Hunwick played 13 postseason games with the Bruins and posted six assists.

Defenseman Marc Staal, who sat out the last two regular-season games with what was believed to be a lower-body injury, practiced and declared himself fine.

"I feel good," said Staal, whose shutdown presence will be critical in matchups against stars Sidney Crosby, who was held to a goal and two assists in the Rangers' seven-game victory over the Penguins last May, or Evgeny Malkin, who had three goals and seven points.

"It's up to the coaches how games play out, and certain situations in d-zone coverage," Staal said. "It's either Mac and 'G' [first pair Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi] or me and Boyler [Dan Boyle]." When Klein was healthy, Staal said, "we were mixing and matching a lot, but since then, I think me and Boyler have gotten more comfortable together."

Yandle and Hunwick, at least on home ice where Vigneault will have the last change on faceoffs, won't be facing Crosby and Malkin, who are on separate lines.

"It's different defending them," Staal said. "Malkin uses his body pretty well and shoots a little more than Crosby does. He takes it upon himself to beat you one-on-one. Sid just passes the puck so well, you can't give him any room."

If Klein, a righthander, was healthy he almost certainly would have been partnered with Staal, a lefty, to defend against the Pens' stars, who provide most of Pittsburgh's offense, with 154 points combined in the regular season.

"We'll have our hands full," Staal said. "They're definitely a team we're familiar with. Last year [in the second round], it came down to the last 30 seconds of Game 7 [a 2-1 Rangers win in Pittsburgh]."

Klein's injury is "tough at the end of the year like this," Staal said. "But we've had guys come in and play well, and the way [the coaches] have put us on the ice, we've gotten pretty comfortable in the last month and a half. We'll be ready for him when he does come back."

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