DALLAS — Vitali Kravtsov cannot catch a break.
The 22-year-old winger, who had two separate injuries through the Rangers’ first eight games of the season, slid hard into the boards Saturday afternoon and had to exit the 6-3 win over the Stars at American Airlines Center. Kravtsov got tangled up with Dallas defenseman Jani Hakanpaa while going full speed in pursuit of the puck. He was crunched into the boards, seemingly leading with his head, and lay still on the ice for a few seconds.
“Day-to-day, upper body [injury],” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said afterward, as he usually does.
The Rangers later clarified that Kravtsov is still being evaluated and they should know more on Sunday.
In the season-opener earlier this month, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman knocked Kravtsov’s head into the boards, sidelining him for the next four games. And after their loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday, Kravtsov suffered another upper-body injury and had to sit out the game against the Islanders on Wednesday.
It’s an unfortunate situation for Kravtsov, who is still trying to find his game at the NHL level. That’s incredibly hard while appearing in just four of nine games, including the three shifts he took in the first game against Tampa Bay.
The Rangers need to find out what they have in Kravtsov, but the slew of injuries hasn’t allowed them to do so.
The Rangers faced Nils Lundkvist for the first time since they traded the young blueliner to Dallas last month. Lundkvist earned the starting nod against his former club and posted three shots on goal and one hit.
“I watched their last game, and he played well,” Gallant said before the game. “I mean, [Miro] Heiskanen was out and he played a lot more minutes the last game. Good, solid young player. Just like everybody thought he was. He’s got some skills, he’s got some talent.”
Lundkvist skated on the Stars’ top pair, alongside Ryan Suter, in the wake of Hesikanen’s absence.
Ryan Reaves was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Julien Gauthier, who was recently recalled for AHL Hartford amid injuries to Filip Chytil (upper body) and Kravtsov (upper body). After sitting out against the Islanders, Kravtsov was back in the lineup Saturday, skating on the right wing of the third line, next to Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow, before he exited with another injury.
Chytil, who did not make this trip with the Rangers, missed a third straight game with a suspected concussion.
Zac Jones was back in the Rangers’ lineup after serving as a healthy scratch the previous two games. The 22-year-old defenseman replaced Libor Hajek on the left side of the bottom pair next to Braden Schneider.
“We’ve got our regular crew of defensemen that play every game and those two guys are basically battling for that spot,” Gallant said before the Rangers faced the Islanders on Wednesday. “You’re not going to sit one guy, like Libor sat a lot of games last year. It’s not going to happen [again]. He plays well, he’s going to get a chance to play.”