The Rangers announced that defenseman Kevin Klein is out indefinitely with a fractured thumb. He sustained the injury after taking a uncalled slash from Reid Boucher landing awkwardly into the boards with 3:02 remaining in the third period. He immediately left the game and was in pain.
It comes as no surprise that Klein will miss time. It didn’t look good. So, once again the Blueshirts will be without one of their most dependable players on the back end. Since coming over in a trade for Michael Del Zotto, he’s been a steady influence that coach Alain Vigneault trusts. After putting up career marks in goals (9), points (26) and plus/minus (24) last season, the 31-year old vet has been unlucky with injuries. He missed 11 games with a oblique injury and injured the same thumb after blocking a shot last month.
Despite missing 12 games, Klein ranks first on the Rangers in plus/minus (14) and has three goals and seven assists with 13 penalty minutes, 64 hits and 81 blocked shots. Without him, rookie Dylan McIlrath will slot in and be reunited with Keith Yandle on the third pair. It speaks volumes that despite McIlrath proving he belongs in the lineup, he has to wait for an injury to get back in. With Vigneault showing way too much loyalty to the struggling Dan Girardi and even Dan Boyle and Marc Staal, it’s a shame that McIlrath has gotten into only three games since Dec. 22. At least now he’ll get the chance to play consistently until Klein returns.
What it means for the current roster is that the organization must recall someone from Hartford. They are down to six defensemen. It better not be Chris Summers again. Raphael Diaz makes sense because he can be carried as a serviceable extra. Hopefully, he doesn’t play at the expense of McIlrath. If that happens, that would be unfathomable. One thing about Vigneault. Don’t put anything past him.