DALLAS — Five Rangers regulars missed Monday night’s game, and the two latest casualties — of unpenalized head shots — were in town, having arrived from Nashville.
Jimmy Vesey, who is in the concussion protocol after being decked and bloodied by a head shot that triggered a three-game suspension for the Predators’ Filip Forsberg, was at American Airlines Center working out while his teammates practiced Monday morning.
When Newsday asked Vesey how he was feeling as he left the building, he responded, “OK.”
In a tweet, Swedish hockey journalist Uffe Bodin said he spoke with Forsberg, who told him: “It’s obviously unfortunate he [Vesey] got hurt, but there are a lot of clean hits that get players hurt, too. I think three games is very exaggerated.”
Marc Staal, who was elbowed into the end boards by defenseman Alexei Emelin minutes before the Vesey hit, was at the team hotel with what coach Alain Vigneault said is a cervical sprain. He will return to New York with the team to be re-examined by team doctors. “We all know that he has a history [with concussions], so we’ll be able to tell you more in a couple days,” Vigneault said.
If the Predators had been penalized, “there’s no doubt that those couple of shifts could have been turning points in that game,’’ Vig neault said. “You saw what our power play did in the third period [two goals] when we had the opportunity. Internally, I have a lot of things I’d like to say about that, but I won’t do it because it’s not effective for my team or our game preparation. It would be good for you guys [media], though.”
Pavel Buchnevich, who suffered a concussion after taking a blow to the jaw in a collision with Toronto’s Jake Gardiner on Thursday night, still was in New York. He missed his second game and is out indefinitely. Chris Kreider (blood clot, rib resection) and Kevin Shattenkirk (left knee meniscus surgery) also are sidelined.
n Blue notes
Besides Rick Nash, six Rangers will be unrestricted free agents in June, and several are expected to be dealt as the Blueshirts re-engineer their roster. The most attractive is Michael Grabner, who has great speed and 21 goals with a cap hit of $1.65 million. The other top candidates are David Desharnais ($1 million) and Nick Holden ($1.65 million). Paul Carey ($650,000), Ondrej Pavelec ($1.3 million) and Cody McLeod ($800,000) also are in the final year of their contracts. Mats Zuccarello ($4.5 million) and Ryan McDonagh ($4.7 million) are due to be UFAs after the 2018-19 season.
Rookie winger Vinny Lettieri, who was summoned from Hartford, played three games there and scored twice after he was returned during the All-Star break. “The last thing you want to do down there is to start sulking and dim the mood,” said Lettieri, who has one goal and three assists with the Rangers this season. “I’m a goal-scorer, I know what I’m back here to do. Just gotta keep shooting. They’ll go in eventually.”