ANAHEIM, Calif. — Marc Staal had emergency surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 9, returned on Dec. 6, and in his fourth game back, Thursday night at the Sharks, he blocked a shot with that ankle — a play that seemed to spell disaster.
The Rangers veteran defenseman missed a couple of shifts, but kept playing and now is considered a game-time decision when this four-game western trip wraps up with a Saturday matinee against the Ducks.
So it goes in the NHL.
“He’s played really well since he’s been back. That, to me, exemplifies the way he’s played,” coach David Quinn said after Friday’s practice in San Jose, Calif., before the Rangers flew south.
“But you walk into our training room, and there’s a cost to winning. It usually entails ice bags and wraps. That’s why we had so many guys taking maintenance days [Friday]. You have to pay a price to win.”
Quinn didn’t have any concern for the availability of the other players — Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo — who took maintenance days.
If Staal can’t play, then Brendan Smith would move back from his role as an even-strength fourth-line forward to his natural role on the blue line.
Forward Vitali Kravtsov was officially recalled from the KHL and assigned to AHL Hartford. The 19-year-old, who was the No. 9-overall pick in 2018, is set to join the Wolf Pack this week.
Winger Brendan Lemieux missed Thursday night’s game with an upper-body injury, but he practiced Friday and was optimistic about being able to play Saturday. Lemieux said he suffered the injury on what he called “a weird play on a hit” during the 3-1 loss at the Kings on Tuesday.
Quinn was a little more declarative in his optimism, saying: “I think he’s going to be ready to go.”
The Rangers are carrying only one extra player, so if both Lemieux and Staal can’t play, they would have to call someone up (or be one man short).
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is set to get the start against the Ducks, his second start this trip after he sat for three straight while dealing with a minor back injury and understudy Alexandar Georgiev was terrific.
“I think he’s had a good year,” Quinn said of Lundqvist. “This stretch has been a little circumstantial, with the tweaking of his back. … Obviously Georgie has been winning, but we have two really good goalies, and Hank has earned this opportunity.”
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