Since the season started, first-year Rangers coach David Quinn has said, over and over, that the Rangers have eight defensemen who can play. At times, that made for some uncomfortable conversations between Quinn and whichever of those eight were going to be left out of the lineup on a given night, but there’s a reason NHL teams always seem to need depth at the position. Even in today’s less-physical NHL, injuries are inevitable. People get hurt.
Kevin Shattenkirk got hurt in Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was hit into the boards early in the second period by former teammate J.T. Miller. Shattenkirk left the game and ended up leaving Amalie Arena with his left arm in a sling. Quinn said afterward he didn’t have any update on Shattenkirk, and the team would know more after Shattenkirk was checked out on Tuesday. The Rangers were off Tuesday and return to practice Wednesday. They play next on Friday at the Garden against Arizona.
As Shattenkirk (one goal, seven assists, zero penalty minutes in 29 games) goes on the shelf, Adam McQuaid, out since late October with what the team described as a lower body injury, appears ready to return. McQuaid has been practicing for a week and could be activated off injured reserve. And Brendan Smith, who’d been scratched the past two games and looked on the verge of falling out of the regular playing rotation, could step back into the lineup.
Of course, the Rangers are in rebuild mode, and developing their young prospects is a top priority for the organization. So, while Shattenkirk is out, the club could take the opportunity to call up a prospect and give him a taste of the NHL level. Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren, a pair of 20-year-olds acquired in major trades last season, are rookies at AHL Hartford. Hajek has played in all 26 games this season, and has three assists and 20 penalty minutes. Lindgren has played in 23 games, and has two assists and 22 penalty minutes.
If the organization doesn’t believe either Lindgren or Hajek are ready, then perhaps John Gilmour or Nesconset native Rob O’Gara, who both finished last season with the Rangers, or second-year pro Brandon Crawley could get a look. Gilmour, 25, is third in scoring at Hartford, with six goals and 11 assists (17 points). O’Gara, 25, played well in the preseason and has two goals and two assists in 24 games. Asked to add meanness to his game, he is second on the team with 32 penalty minutes. Crawley, 21, a fourth-round draft pick in 2017, also had a strong preseason, and he has three goals and six assists in 20 games, with 31 penalty minutes.
Back to Hartford. With Mats Zuccarello (groin) and Pavel Buchnevich (thumb) on the verge of returning, forwards Steven Fogarty and Cole Schneider were returned to Hartford on Tuesday.