NEW YORK, N.Y. – Rangers forward Chris Kreider returned to the New York lineup Wednesday night after being medically cleared following a monthlong layoff because of a broken left hand.
Kreider got the go-ahead from doctors Tuesday, and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault added the 23-year-old left wing to the club’s offensive attack for Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York trails the best-of-seven series 2-1 and hasn’t scored since a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1.
Kreider participated in the team’s morning skate, but neither he nor Vigneault would say then if he would play right away. Kreider then took part in the pregame warmups, and was listed on the official lineup sheet moments later.
He saw his first action in the opening minute of the game on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan.
Kreider broke his left hand on March 21 and underwent surgery a week later after playing in two games. He missed the last nine regular-season games and the first 10 in the playoffs.
He scored 17 goals—six on the power play—this season, and his addition could provide a boost to the man-advantage unit that has failed 34 straight times.
Kreider was joined in the lineup by rugged forward Daniel Carcillo, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3. They replaced J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast.
“You want to be in this time of year,” Kreider said Wednesday morning. “(You) play the entire regular season so you can make the playoffs, to be in the playoffs. It’s not easy, but obviously we have an incredible squad and they’ve done an extremely good job to this point.”
At the very least, even if Kreider’s game is rusty, he will provide a set of fresh legs to the weary Rangers, who played Wednesday night for the sixth time in nine days and wrapped up a second straight stretch of three games in four days.
Kreider said he feels good and has strength in his hands for shooting and passing. No restrictions have been placed on him.
“It’s been kind of a frustrating process,” he said. “Just kind of day by day and I try to control the things that I can control.”
The Penguins made one change to their lineup as defenceman Brooks Orpik returned from a five-game injury absence and replaced Robert Bortuzzo, who assisted on Sidney Crosby’s first goal of the playoffs in Game 3.