COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pavel Buchnevich, who has sat out three games with a recurrence of back spasms, could be ready to play against the Florida Panthers on Sunday in the Rangers’ first home game in 12 days.
The Russian winger skated with the spares, including defenseman Adam Clendening and center Josh Jooris, on Friday, but coach Alain Vigneault wants to see him in Saturday’s practice before he makes a commitment. Buchnevich had the recurrence during warmups in Edmonton on Sunday.
“My understanding is he skated real well,” Vigneault said.
Clendening remains in limbo, and when Vigneault was asked if he felt any need to get him some ice time, he responded, “yes and no,” citing three games in four nights starting on Sunday. Clendening dressed as a seventh defenseman in Edmonton with Buchnevich and Kreider sidelined and no other forwards available, but didn’t leave the bench and has not played since Oct. 23.
Hayes plays big on penalty kills
Kevin Hayes played defense on the penalty kill at Boston College, but now finds himself on one of the forward pairs when the Blueshirts are shorthanded. The penalty-kill units, which lost Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg to free agency, have risen to No. 8 in efficiency in the NHL.
“We did use Kevin a little in his first year on the PK,” Vig neault said. “I liked the size [6-5], like the long reach, he covers a lot of room. I’m not crazy about using the same guys on the power play and penalty kill, and we felt Kevin and J.T. [Miller] were at a point where those guys could come in. With Kevin, also, he’s a lefthanded centerman for draws on the left side, Stepan and Mika (Zibanejad) are both righthanders, and [Brandon] Pirri we also use on the power play.”
With the Rangers hosting Florida on Sunday, and facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday, Antti Raanta is expected to start one of those games, presumably against the Panthers. Raanta (4-0-0, 2.05 GAA, .938 save percentage this season) started in Edmonton last Sunday, is 1-0 against Florida in his career and had a no-decision in one appearance against the Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist would have two full days off before facing the Penguins.