The Rangers were forced to finish Thursday’s 4-0 manhandling by the Islanders without their lone remaining physical presence.
Ryan Lindgren headed to the locker room early in the third period and didn’t return after smashing into Islanders fourth-liner Cal Clutterbuck. The 23-year-old defenseman appeared to clang his head off the curved part of the plexiglass near the Rangers’ bench and quickly collapsed to the ice in visible distress.
With veteran defenseman Jacob Trouba still out with a presumed concussion, even though head coach David Quinn said he was “certainly getting close” to returning, the Rangers’ defensive corps has taken a hit.
Jack Johnson, who signed a one-year deal with the Rangers this offseason, was ruled out for the rest of the season in late March to undergo core muscle surgery. The Rangers have had to turn to Libor Hajek and Zac Jones, who don’t even combine for 100 games of NHL experience.
“It’s a year where people have had to dig to their eighth, ninth defensemen and we’re not different,” said Quinn, who didn’t have an update on Lindgren after the loss. “If that’s the case with Ryan than that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Trouba skated with the team Thursday morning for the first time since getting leveled by Matt Martin during the first period of the 6-1 loss to the Isles on April 20.
The veteran defenseman had been skating on his own, but missed his fifth straight game Thursday. Trouba is still considered “day-to-day,” according to Quinn.
The Rangers could opt to use one of their four remaining recalls on a defenseman should Lindgren not be available the next few games. Tarmo Reunanen would likely be the first in line after he made his NHL debut on March 15 in place of Adam Fox, who was in COVID-19 protocol after registering a false positive.
Fox was awarded the 33rd annual Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award prior to the loss at the Garden.
The 23-year-old is just the second defenseman to receive the honor, which was presented to Brian Leetch in 1996-97. The award was created in 1987-88 in honor of the late NYC police detective Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the line of duty in 1986. He died in 2017.
“I’ve grown up in New York, I know what a hero and what an icon Steven McDonald was to the city and to this organization,” Fox said. “It’s definitely an honor and definitely grateful for it.”
Chris Kreider did not play after sitting out of morning skate, with the team saying it was for “maintenance” reasons. As a result, Vitali Kravtsov slotted onto the third line, while Phil Di Giuseppe was back in the lineup for the first time since April 6.
After the game, Quinn said Kreider was “day-to-day,” and that the staff would know more Friday.