It seemed like yesterday’s comeback against the Bruins was too good to be true. Well, in a way, maybe it was. The Rangers got the win against all odds, but it came with a price. After all the rainbows and smiles of yesterday, the Rangers started up the day today with the announcement that Ryan Callahan broke his ankle blocking Zdeno Chara’s slapshot in the final minute of the game. Clearly, this is a devastating loss for the Rangers, and really is a fitting end to the regular season, given the number of injuries this team has been forced to deal with. Callahan was, for all intents and purposes, the Rangers’ captain this season. He’s second on the team in goals despite only playing 60 games, and leads the team in hits. And he’s a key defensive player. There’s no sugar coating this one, the Rangers will be missing his presence. Unless the Rangers become this year’s Cinderella team and go deep into the playoffs, Callahan probably won’t be returning, and even then he might not be healthy enough to go. What doesn’t make sense is how we got to this point. Callahan clearly was affected by the shot, as he stayed lying down on the ice for a few seconds before slowly making his way to the Rangers’ bench. But he then stayed on the bench and stood up to join the Rangers’ celebration on the bench after Stepan scored and skated over. Then he skated onto the ice and did the stick salute, seemingly unaffected. And then Tortorella, who if he knew about the diagnosis of the injury had all ready to be the pissed off and depressed version of Torts, was nothing but upbeat and smiling during the post-game press conference, with no mention of the injury. Regardless, assuming the Rangers make it into the playoffs, we’re going to have to try to win without one of our most important players. I don’t think we need to call the NYPD to arrest Chara, though. Let’s look at who might be replacing Callahan for the rest of this season:
Matt Gilroy- Tortorella said that Matt Gilroy would dress as a forward “for the time being.” Presumably, Gilroy will not be getting too much icetime, but it’s a way to give Gilroy some game-time minutes while also adding a bit of offense. One of thing Gilroy is good at is pinching deep into the zone and making a play with the puck. Gilroy hasn’t played forward since he was in high school, though, so you have to figure that this is simply an experiment that will last the last two games of the season, at most. I doubt John Tortorella wants to stick a guy who has played very limited forward at the professional or even college level.
Kris Newbury- He’s the most experienced forward we have in our minor league system and has been the first call up almost every time the Rangers needed a forward. So he seems to be a leading candidate by default. His offensive contributions are limited, but he’s a physical player, isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, is reliable in the defensive zone, and can contribute PK minutes. In his limited time with the Rangers, he also has a face-off percentage above 60%.
Mats Zuccarello- He’s still in Connecticut for now, but Zuccarello has to be a candidate. If Tortorella wants to add some offense to the lineup, as opposed to a gritty player like Newbury, then Zuccarello is the go-to guy. The Rangers sent him down to the AHL because he simply wasn’t getting enough minutes at the NHL level to justify his presence. Now, though, minutes have opened up, and the Rangers might have no choice but to use him if they feel like they need offensive production. It’s certainly a possibility.
Chris Drury- If and when Chris Drury is healthy, he is probably going to be put into the lineup. It’s only a matter of when Chris Drury will be healthy. Drury has only played 23 games this season, the last of which came on February 3rd. In those games, he produced a whole 4 points, all assists. You have to question how rusty he’s going to be, and even how productive he can be when the rust is gone. You know Drury has worked his ass off and done everything he can to get to game-ready as fast as possible, but no amount of weight lifting and morning skates can replace real game action. With all that said, he’s still probably the best option available. Drury has more than earned his stripes in this league, and he wears the “C” for a reason. The guy will do everything he humanly can to help this team win in the playoffs. He steps up in big moments. He would finally give this team a true go-to faceoff man and can certainly would be a capable for Callahan on the penalty kill.
I know we all cringe at the thought of Chris Drury and his contract. He’s clearly not the same player he once was. We can worry about dealing with him in the offseason, though. For now, the Rangers are pretty desperate for his presence. Drury has begun taking part in team skates and presumably will be doing full-contact practices soon. The sooner he is ready to take his place in the lineup, the better off the Rangers will be.