Rangers react to ‘heartbreaking’ Blake Wheeler injury ahead of Stadium Series

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Chris Kreider got emotional when asked about Blake Wheeler’s lower-body injury that will cut short his season with the New York Rangers.

After trying to find the right words to describe his feelings about Wheeler, Kreider was able to utter just one.

“Heartbreaking.”

And really, that one word summed up the emotions of the Rangers in the visitors’ locker room here at MetLife Stadium on Friday ahead of their Stadium Series clash against the Islanders this weekend.

Rangers captain Jacob Trouba also was emotional discussing Wheeler, his teammate with the Winnipeg Jets from 2013-19 and again this season in New York.

“As much as these guys are teammates, we lost a friend,” Trouba said. “He’s obviously going through something no one wants to go through. There’s more to it than just the impact to the team. We all care a lot about hockey and our jobs, but we’re all humans and friends and, I’m not saying this is true, but maybe he played his last hockey game. 

“To see this player, this friend, who helped me so much when I came into this league, it’s emotional. For me, it’s a little extra tough I think because he’s someone I look up to.”

Related: Blake Wheeler injury should remove Kaapo Kakko from Rangers trade talk

Season-ending Blake Wheeler injury ‘tough to see’ for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Anaheim Ducks
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It was hard to watch Thursday at Madison Square Garden when Wheeler was injured on a hit by Jayden Struble of the Montreal Canadiens. Especially when the 37-year-old tried to get up off the ice and his right leg buckled underneath him.

Wheeler found out Friday that he’s out for the rest of the regular season, and likely throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s a tough one. He hasn’t been here very long but the impact he’s had on and off the ice has been great for us,” Mika Zibanejad said. “Unbelievable player. Unbelievable person and teammate.”

That was another prevailing sentiment from the Rangers here Friday. That Wheeler’s value to the club extends much further than his nine goals and 21 points.

“You never want to see someone go down like that, especially a veteran guy that’s brought so much to our team this year, on the ice, off the ice, leadership,” forward Barclay Goodrow offered. “It’s tough to see.”

As for the on-ice part, Jimmy Vesey will take Wheeler’s place on the top line with Zibanejad and Kreider when the Rangers play the Islanders outdoors Sunday. 

Rookie Matt Rempe likely will take Wheeler’s spot in the lineup and could make his NHL debut in front of 70,000 fans.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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