Rangers injury scares raises caution flag with playoffs close

NHL: New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

It was a scary moment for the New York Rangers Tuesday night as Mika Zibanejad laid face down at center ice after a questionable hit from New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech.

Struggling to get off, Zibanejad missed the remainder of the game, though he returned to the bench in the final minute.

Of course, this close to the playoffs, seeing your top center go down brought the reality of a worst case scenario for the Rangers, and a nightmare for their fans.

Zibanejad wasn’t the only one to have an injury scare in the 4-2 loss to the rival Islanders.

Vincent Trocheck had fans holding their breath when he was hit from behind by Noah Dobson. Luckily, Trocheck was not hurt on the play, though he was infuriated with the officials for not calling a boarding penalty, and rightfully so.

Chris Kreider and Ryan Lindgren also left the game briefly. Kreider took a Zibanejad slap shot off the chest, and Lindgren’s knee went hard into the end boards. Thankfully, both came back and finished the game.

“You never want to see a guy go down like that,” Jimmy Vesey mentioned of the Zibanejad injury. “I didn’t want to watch the replay. The way he was moving on the ice, or not moving, depending on how you want to put it, it’s kind of scary. He’s a big part of our team and a big part of our locker room.”

Related: Rangers and Islanders coaches have war of words

Rangers need to be careful with three games remaining

NHL: New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

With just three games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers need to be cautious and avoid injuries at all costs. That said, it’s difficult to prevent errant shots, and “vicious” hits, as Peter Laviolette described.

“(Zibanejad) came back at the end after that vicious hit,” Laviolette, clearly unhappy, noted. “Shoulder, elbow to the head. Watch it.”

The task at hand now is finding a way to earn points in the last three games, while staying healthy.

Sitting players like Zibanejad and Trocheck may seem like an option, but the last three games of the season still hold great significance.

The Carolina Hurricanes (107 points) are just three points back of the Rangers (110 points) for the Metropolitan Division lead. And the Rangers’ lead for the Presidents’ Trophy is just one over the Dallas Stars.

“Games are important right now, they mean a lot,” Laviolette explained. “Our guys are battling hard out there.”

The players understand the magnitude of the situation. Getting to the playoffs healthy is a top priority, but there are still games to be won.

“The way things have unfolded, we’re still playing for something here,” Vesey said. “The teams we’ve been facing are in the same boat, they’re playing for a lot. Sometimes guys get rested, but that’s just the way it plays out. We’re still playing for a lot.”

What the gritty veteran is talking about is the top spot in the division, the top spot in the NHL, and a more favorable playoff match up.

With so many teams fighting for the last remaining playoff spots, there’s several teams the Rangers could match up against, the Islanders being one of them.

The Islanders are third in the division, but it is a highly contested race. With another game slated for Saturday afternoon between these two teams, expect some fireworks at Madison Square Garden in response to the hits on Zibanejad and Trocheck.

At the end of the day, the Blueshirts must be cautious and keep the bigger picture in perspective.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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