The Rangers have only just begun the long road ahead.
It will take at least nine and two more games respectively before Adam Fox and Filip Chytil can play again.
And now they may have to be without their star goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin for longer than originally expected.
By returning goaltender Louis Domingue, center Jonny Brodzinski and defenseman Connor Mackey to AHL Hartford on Sunday morning and then recalling them in the evening, the Rangers gained valuable cap space for the day while also gaining the reinforcements they obviously need for their injured roster.
According to a source, Shesterkin, who was injured in the Carolina game and was unable to play as a substitute in Minnesota, is experiencing mild daily pain.
Since the Rangers also brought back Brodzinski, it’s unclear what Barclay Goodrow’s paternity leave schedule is.
Although the Blueshirts may just need additional depth due to Fox’s assignment to long-term injured reserve and Chytil’s placement on injured reserve.
This could mean Shesterkin will not make his next start, originally scheduled for Tuesday against the Red Wings at the Garden.
The Rangers will practice Monday and will likely assess how Shesterkin is feeling.
Head coach Peter Laviolette noted that he and his team tried to make as few moves as possible given the injuries to the Rangers’ top defender and midfielder.
While Goodrow’s return to the bottom six should bring a touch of normalcy to the club, not having Shesterkin available in goal could be a major hurdle with three top-10 scoring teams (Detroit, Minnesota, New Jersey) on the upcoming agenda.
Not that Jonathan Quick was the least bit disappointed in his role as backup. In fact, the 37-year-old goaltender was the only reason the Rangers secured at least a point in their shootout loss to the Wild on Saturday.
Normality has prevailed for the Rangers lately.
They suffered just their third loss of the season on Saturday in a game that saw a desperate Wild team invade the Rangers’ zone.
Sure, Minnesota had an extra lead in the middle of a four-game losing streak, but it was still a beatable club, even for a weakened team.
“We scored three goals [four] “It wasn’t like we played great hockey in the first half, I think it was just the result,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “I don’t think we were really in the lead, I don’t think we had our best game right from the start. Found a way to get a point and move on. Regroup.”
The Wild are the least threatening team the Rangers will face again this week during their three-game homestand.
The competition will only increase with five divisional opponents scheduled between now and Fox’s expected return on November 29th.
Detroit, the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL entering Sunday’s games, will be at the Garden on Tuesday before the Rangers take on the Wild on Thursday.
They then finish the week against the Blue Jackets, who the Rangers gave up a season-high five goals in regulation in their first meeting earlier this season.
The Rangers will have to find ways to overcompensate for the loss of Fox on the power play as well as Chytil’s addition to the team’s most effective offensive line at five-on-five.
Zero goals and three combined points from two of their top three right wingers, Kaapo Kakko and Blake Wheeler, won’t be enough.
A five-on-five goal from their two best active centers, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck, is not enough.
Relying on the power play for offense and goaltending to withstand a high volume of shots is not practical.
The Rangers have a lot of work to do. An 8-2-1 record cushion can only last for so long.
“It’s tough losing guys for sure,” Jimmy Vesey said. “I thought all the guys that stepped in played hard. I’m not sure it was an effort thing, I guess. Maybe we were just on our heels more than we wanted to be. We will review the game and be better.”