The New York Rangers confirmed the original diagnosis of a non-displaced fracture in Mats Zuccarello's left hand yesterday, and set the timetable for the wingers return at 3-4 weeks. The 3-4 week recovery estimate is from the day the injury occurred, not today, meaning the timetable actually started Sunday the 16th–when Zuccarello fractured the hand blocking a shot in Norway's tilt against Austria.
"I knew it was trouble" Zuccarello said of the injury. "I wanted to take an X-ray right away but they didn't have an X-ray at the rink, so I played the rest of the game with it, and the day after it was bad. Kind of understood after the game something was wrong."
The prognosis means the Blueshirts will be without their leading scorer for a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 10 games, if all goes according to plan. It also means that unless Zuccarello possesses the healing properties of Wolverine, he'll be out through the March 5th trade deadline, adding further intrigue to what could already be an eventful and active deadline day for the Rangers.
The timing of the injury is less than ideal for the Rangers, who begin a critical 23-game sprint to the finish as soon as they resume play the 27th against the Blackhawks. The 2nd-place Blueshirts, despite playing so well before the Olympics, are still only 1 point up on 3rd-place Philadelphia, and 4 ahead of Columbus and Washington in the Metropolitan Division. The tightness of the playoff race could prompt Glen Sather to be active in the rental forward market as soon as the NHL roster freeze is lifted Sunday, rather than role the dice and see how his team fares without its leading scorer.
The Rangers may be without Zuccarello for a while, but Derek Dorsett is getting close to returning from a broken left leg. The rugged winger has missed 17 games since injuring the leg blocking a shot, but the hope right now is that he won't have to miss another one. Dorsett, who isn't cleared for contact yet but is skating, hopes to be ready for the Blueshirts' first game out of the Olympic break Thursday against Chicago.
When asked what the biggest obstacle is for him as he tries to return, Dorsett said:
"My first 2-3 steps coming out of the gate, there's still a little bit of soreness, but that's to be expected."
Dorsett's pending return means the Rangers, who have been carrying just 12 healthy forwards for some time now, may not have to recall anyone from Hartford if they don't want to. However, swapping out Zuccarello for Dorsett is hardly an even trade in terms of skill. A better option may be to give J.T. Miller–26 points in 25 games for the Wolf Pack–another shot with the big club, and allow Dorsett to reclaim his role on the 4th line, with Dan Carcillo likely sitting.
Carcillo has played well in his 15 games as a Blueshirt–even potting two goals–but Dorsett's ability to kill penalties and his status as essentially a younger, slightly more skilled version of Carcillo would likely make him the more appealing option to coach Alain Vigneault.
-Per Steve Zipay of Newsday, Vigneault said today if Dorsett is healthy, there won't be any callups.
-Marc Staal has missed practice the last two days with back spasms. He's day-to-day; the injury isn't considered serious.
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