NEW YORK -- The banged-up New York Rangers defense suffered another injury, which means they will be further depleted when they host the high-powered San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Kevin Klein, the Rangers' top right-handed defenseman, missed the team's first two games with a back strain. During the Rangers' 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, fellow right-handed defenseman Dan Girardi left the game with a hip flexor strain and may miss extended time.
Coach Alain Vigneault said he expects Girardi to be "a little bit more than day-to-day."
If Klein misses his third straight game, the Rangers defense would be down to two regulars from a season ago -- Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal. It's likely that Dylan McIlrath, sporadically used last season and a healthy scratch the first two games, would make his season debut.
It will be a tough task against the Sharks, who had the NHL's best road record a season ago and returned most of the roster that reached the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. They added the speedy left winger Mikkel Boedker in free agency, and he was helpful as the Sharks improved to 2-0 with a 3-2 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Boedker and linemates right winger Joonas Donskoi and center Logan Couture generated several chances in the win, although they did not register a point. The Sharks' depth could prove to be a challenge against the depleted Rangers.
"We play well together," Boedker said to the San Jose Mercury News on Saturday. "A lot of talk and helping each other out. I think it's a key component to the success we've had the last two games. We have to continue that and continue to play the way we can play."
"I thought that line was pretty good again, (Boedker) in particular," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said to the San Jose Mercury News. "He created quite a bit of stuff and could have had at least another one and set up a couple guys. He was one of our better guys."
While both teams have played well at even strength, they each enjoyed a game in which they had 12 power-play shots, slightly skewing their overall shot totals.
The Sharks have outshot their first two opponents by a combined 69-50 while the Rangers have a 74-46 edge in shots, which includes holding the Blues to zero shots in the third period.
"I don't think we can play much better than we did in the third," Henrik Lundqvist said to Newsday after the Rangers outshot the Blues 15-0 in the final 20 minutes. "Obviously, they (the Blues) battened down, and waited for mistakes. It felt like we were going to tie the game, we had enough chances, (Blues goaltender Carter Hutton) just made some big saves."
If the Rangers want to avoid succumbing to a Sharks' onslaught, they'll need to play that same aggressive style to protect their weakened back end.
"We had the puck in their end most of the time, so that reduced the burden," Staal told the New York Post. "It can be tough going with five if you're defending a lot, but our mindset was to be aggressive and take the game to them. That helped."