Why Kevin Klein is a huge part of the Rangers; Ryan McDonagh update
On November 1st in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, Captain Ryan McDonagh suffered a separated shoulder when Evander Kane hit him into the boards. With Boyle already out at the time, the Rangers needed help on the back end.
Although all of the Rangers defensemen stepped up at points, but Kevin Klein has been one of the biggest surprises for the Rangers this season.
Throughout his career, Kevin Klein has been known as a defensive specialist, a minute eater, and a potential top-four defenseman. He’s reliable and does not make many mistakes on the ice.
When McDonagh was injured, Klein was there for New York, skating on the second defensive pairing and playing increased minutes against the top skaters on opposing teams.
Klein filled in beautifully, and helped solidify the fragile defense of the Rangers when they needed it most.
Klein is averaging 17:50 of ice time, up nearly three minutes from his average last season. He also has 28 hits and 33 blocked shots early on in the season.
But what Klein has been doing better than ever before is finding ways to score. In 19 games this year, Klein has four goals, which matches a career high for a single season, as well as two assists, which ties his with Dan Girardi (1-5-6) and Matt Hunwick (0-6-6) in points among defensemen. His four goals leads defenseman on the Rangers.
Adding an offensive touch to his game only makes Kevin Klein even more well-rounded than ever before. All of the goals have been even strength, so no empty netters, and he has provided shutdown defensive play since McDonagh’s absence.
One moment that stands out from this early season came last game against the Montreal Canadiens. When Henrik Lundqvist left the crease to play the puck, Brandon Prust wound up colliding with him in what appeared to be incidental contact. However, Klein took exception to the hit, and dropped the gloves with the former Ranger. Although he lost the fight, Klein showed that he is willing to stand up for his teammates no matter what the cost, and that sends a huge message to the rest of the locker room.
However, the Rangers may be getting their Captain back very soon according to Alain Vigneault. On Friday, McDonagh practiced in a normal, full-contact jersey, with AV saying that “he was the best player on the ice” during practice.
“I felt pretty encouraged today,” said McDonagh, who was not restricted in what drills he could participate in during practice. “I had good mobility (in the shoulder) and good strength. The whole training staff has done a great job of trying to get everything back to feeling 100 percent, and it’s getting really close.”
Vigneault believes that he will play in the next seven days, but he will not start tomorrow when the Rangers head into Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning in Martin St. Louis’ homecoming game. McDonagh could potentially be cleared to play on Friday or Saturday, but it is unclear when exactly his return will be.
McDonagh is not only the top defenseman on the Rangers, he is also the team’s captain. On top of winning puck battles, playing great one-on-one defense, and scoring goals, McDonagh is there to lead the team, which is something he has not been able to do because of his injury.
Getting back a key player on any team is always extremely helpful, but getting back a captain is a great feeling for both the fans and his teammates.
McDonagh is a hard worker during games and practice, and his presence alongside Dan Girardi on the Rangers top defensive pairing will take some of the pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist.
Posted on November 26, 2014, in In the Crease and tagged Brandon Prust, Dan Girardi, Habs, Henrik Lundqvist, Kevin Klein, Madison Square Garden, Martin St. Louis, Montreal Canadiens, MSG, New York Rangers, NY Rangers, NYR, Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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