The forward is on the shelf with a lower body injury after he left Sunday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. Hayes had an MRI on Monday morning.
The 24-year-old has 35 points in 47 games for the Rangers this season, including 13 goals. He has five points on the power play, including one goal, and has amassed five points on the penalty kill. Three of his goals are game-winners.
Ahead of Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Rangers are 30-16-1. That’s good for fourth in the extremely tough Metropolitan Division, which essentially means that the Blueshirts are still in for a fight and may have to settle for a wild card spot.
And that means that the Hayes injury stinks.
It also means the Rangers will get to rely on their world famous balance up front, as this isn’t a team to depend on any one forward too much. Losing Hayes isn’t a good thing by any extent, but New York may be more prepared to weather the storm than any other National Hockey League team.
Still, Hayes has been exceptional in places this season. He’s excelled on the penalty kill, for instance, and has provided considerable offensive production after overcoming a less-than-ideal 2015-2016.
The timing on the injury is kind of nice, with the upcoming All-Star break taking some of the heat off.
But the issue of positioning keeps coming up, as the Rangers really can’t afford to let anything slip down the stretch. They’d prefer to top three divisional finish going into the post-season and they’ll need every win they can get on the way there.
New York is also contending with injuries to Matt Puempel and Marc Staal, who still has no timetable for a return despite being recently cleared for contact.