Mika Zibanejad’s late scratch gives Rangers another concern


ST. LOUIS — The Rangers were forced to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen at the last minute.

Mika Zibanejad was a late scratch Thursday night against the Blues, after the Swedish center took the ice for warm-ups but did not participate in line rushes before he headed to the locker room.

He was sick on Wednesday and did not practice, but he was thought to be good to go for Thursday’s game.

“It’s going around from team-to-team,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the Blueshirts dropped their third consecutive game in a 5-2 loss. “Morning skate, he was good. Just took a turn for the worse right at game time. He was out for warm-ups and we were thinking it was going to be good. He’ll get some rest, he’ll be back.”

Mika Zibanejad, pictured earlier this month against the Hurricanes, was a late scratch before the Rangers' game against the Blues on Thursday.
Mika Zibanejad, pictured earlier this month against the Hurricanes, was a late scratch before the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Blues. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Rangers were more concerned with the availability of Jacob Trouba, who missed the previous two days of practice for what the club described as personal reasons.

Matthew Robertson was a late call-up Wednesday in case Trouba was unavailable, but the defenseman was returned to Hartford later Thursday.

The Rangers’ captain, whose wife Dr. Kelly Tyson-Trouba is pregnant with their first child, was ultimately able to play and slotted back into his usual defensive post on the right side of K’Andre Miller.

Without Zibanejad, Zac Jones drew back into the lineup for the first time since Dec. 15.

Additionally, Kaapo Kakko was a full participant in the Rangers’ optional morning skate on Thursday, but the Finnish wing did not suit up for the game.

It marked the 20th straight game Kakko has missed with a lower-body injury.

“Still in a [regular] jersey,” said Laviolette, who declined to say if Kakko would be ready to be activated off the long-term injured reserve and return to the lineup on Saturday in Washington. “No restrictions. Doing well.”

Tyler Pitlick also participated in morning skate, albeit in a red non-contact jersey.

Sidelined for a fourth straight game on Thursday, Pitlick is still considered week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Under the same circumstances as last year, Jake Leschyshyn made his season debut with the Rangers on Thursday night.

The Rangers claimed Leschyshyn off waivers from Vegas in January last season, when injuries had begun to pile up and the club needed to strengthen its forward depth.

Now that the injury bug is back — and trickling down into the club’s AHL affiliate — so is Leschyshyn.

“I was really excited,” the 24-year-old said of his first recall of 2024 after the Rangers’ morning skate. “I’ve been working really hard to get back in [Hartford’s] lineup from being hurt. So I feel it’s pretty rewarding to know my game is trending in the right direction to earn a call-up, so really excited.”

Vincent Trocheck scored his 13th goal of the season and seventh on the power play at the 10:58 mark of the third period.

He now has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) over his last six games, as well as 16 points in his last 12.

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