It’s a not a deathblow, but the loss of Mika Zibanejad certainly packs a devastating punch to the New York Rangers lineup that has a tough divisional schedule on the horizon.
The Rangers announced Thursday that Zibanejad is out indefinitely with a concussion after a hit he sustained from Darren Helm last Friday against the Detroit Red Wings.
It’s a tough pill to swallow in the Big Apple, for a couple reasons.
Zibanejad is the team’s top goal scorer with 11 and point producer with 22. He’s also the team’s top-line center on a line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich that has combined for 58 points this season.
And there might not be a worse time for Zibanejad to be out of the lineup. The Rangers, who have won 10 of their past 13 games and sit four points adrift of third place in the Metropolitan Division, play half of their next 12 games against divisional opponents.
David Desharnais filled in for Zibanejad on Tuesday in a 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers. He collected three assists in the game, but his long-term viability between Krieder and Buchnevich is questionable.
The loss of Zibanejad leaves the Rangers a little light on center depth as well. The Rangers traded Adam Cracknell to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for center Peter Holland. Holland is expected to start with the Hartford Wolfpack of the American Hockey League but could be an option down the middle at some point.
Perhaps the most concerning part, for both Zibanejad and the Rangers going forward is that Zibanejad has been concussed five times dating back to his final season in Sweden in 2011-12.
His last came during the 2015-16 season when he was with the Ottawa Senators.