By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
What else could happen, right?
Surely after Tobias Rieder misses a weekend of action following a “minor” car accident last Friday, the Rangers’ roster fortunes deserve some sort of good luck.
Although, this is great news for Ryan Murphy, the Rangers will be without their captain and top-scoring defenceman for an indefinite period after he received an emergency call-up from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
Murphy told the Raleigh News Observer that Rangers head coach Steve Spott broke the news to him in a typical Steve Spott-Ryan Murphy kind of way.
“He said he had some bad news — he told me I’d be missing the games this weekend,” Murphy told the Observer’s Chip Alexander. “He played a little trick on me, but then he told me what was going on.”
Both Spott and Murphy are seasoned pranksters.
The Hurricanes, the team that drafted Murphy in the first round in 2011, recently placed two top defencemen (Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen) on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 12. Jamie McBain is also out for possibly a week or two with an upper body injury.
Players must be out a minimum of seven days after being placed on the IR and reports indicate Pitkanen, who returned to practice Wednesday, could be back by the weekend.
So that meant Murphy got his first NHL game action Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Aurora, Ont. native was held pointless but had 23:51 minutes of ice time, second-most on the team.
Meanwhile, it opens up a roster spot in Kitchener for 17-year-old defenceman Owen Stewart, who last played Jan. 26 against Erie.
The Rangers (33-16-1-7) host the Saginaw Spirit tonight at The Aud at 7:30 p.m.
Frankie Palazzese, Cory Genovese, Matt Schmalz and the Sudbury Wolves visit Kitchener Saturday at 2 p.m., before the Rangers head down Highway 401 to face the Battalion for the final time at Brampton’s Powerade Centre. The Battalion move to North Bay, Ont. next season.
As for the rest of the team, associate coach Paul Fixter said having Murphy, John Gibson and Radek Faksa out of the lineup should be nothing new at this point. All three were away at Christmas for the world junior tournament.
“This is just another test,” Fixter said. “The guys have shown they can persevere. This is a resilient group.”
As for the rest of the hurting Rangers, here’s the latest:
Tobias Rieder: The German sniper missed all three games last weekend following a minor car collision. Rieder, the team’s leading scorer who is riding a 12-game point-scoring streak and has eight goals in five February games, had not been cleared for game action as of Thursday morning, but was skating and scheduled to practice with the team.
Radek Faksa: The Czech forward had his four-week checkup on Wednesday and has been doing some light skating. There is no return date, but the team plans to have Faksa (knee) 100 per cent game ready before he returns to the ice.
Fixter said, “he’s close, but not ready yet.”
John Gibson: Fixter said Gibson (hip/groin) is also showing good progress, but is still behind Faksa at this point. He has been doing some light skating as well.