New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider received distressing, scary news Thursday morning, learning he has a blood clot in his right arm.
Kreider left Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals under mysterious circumstances in the first period since it did not appear that he suffered an injury during any of his seven shifts. Reporters even speculated that perhaps Kreider was ill, though the team later stated he had an upper body injury, fueling speculation that he had a concussion.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed Thursday after practice that Kreider had swelling in his arm prior to the game at Madison square Garden. He received medical clearance to play, but the arm swelled even more during the first period and doctors removed him from the game, sending him to the hospital for tests. Those tests revealed the blood clot.
The team announced Kreider will be out indefinitely. Kreider was back at the hospital undergoing further tests on Thursday.
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The 26-year-old former first-round pick, is tied for the team lead with five power play goals this season and is tied for second with 11 goals overall. Last season Kreider established career-highs with 28 goals and 53 points. He scored 21 or more goals each of the last three seasons.
Not only is this frightening for Kreider, it is a major blow to the Rangers, who are in the middle of a tight playoff race in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. The Rangers are tied with the Islanders for the top wild card spot in the East, three points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied for ninth place.
‘It’s part of the game, stuff happens,” Vigneault said of Kreider’s expected lengthy absence. “Other opportunities for other guys to get a bigger role and more ice time.”
To replace Kreider on the roster, the Rangers recalled 22-year-old winger Vinni Lettieri. The former University of Minnesota product nearly made the Rangers’ opening-night roster with a strong training camp and preseason, and has 12 goals, nine assists and 21 points in 31 games with Hartford in the American Hockey League.
“I think everybody remembers the speed and the skillset from training camp,” Vigneault said of Lettieri. “He had some very good moments in Hartford. Our coaches there and our scouts feel that he’s a good prospect, and he’s going to get his first look in the NHL.”
Similar condition as Vasilevskiy. Kreider expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Tough blow but opportunity for Lettieri.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) December 28, 2017
Vigneault said that second-year pro Jimmy Vesey, who has eight goals in a bottom-six role this season, likely will get the chance to grab more ice time on left wing while Kreider is out of the lineup. Lettieri will start out on the fourth line, though he does provide a rare righthanded shot on a forward group that leans heavily left, and could see power play time as a result.
“This is the best Christmas present yet,” said Lettieri following practice. “It’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my skill. I’ve obviously been waiting for this moment a long time.”
The Rangers return to action Friday night in Detroit against the Red Wings.