Chris Kreider has his health, and now he can’t wait to play hockey again.
But he’ll have to wait a bit longer. Kreider practiced with the Rangers Wednesday in a non-contact jersey for the first time since departing their Dec. 27 game against the Capitals after the first period with a blood clot in his right arm, but it’s uncertain when he will be cleared for a return to the lineup.
“From what I understand in talking to (team trainer Jim Ramsay) and our doc, there’s a lot of room to go here,” Alain Vigneault said. “He’s feeling good health-wise. He can resume skating, he can resume hard training. But that was a serious injury he had here. So we’re looking at definitely game-conditioning. … So I don’t know if we’re talking two weeks (or) we’re talking a month, but the docs and him will evaluate this on a daily basis, and he’ll keep working and hopefully he can join us at some point in the future.”
Kreider underwent a rib resection on Jan. 7. He said he was born with a “malformed rib,” which ultimately led to the 26-year-old’s blood clot.
“My first rib was fused to my second rib and pushing it up and kind of out of place, so I had like a wonky-looking collarbone my whole life,” Kreider told reporters after practicing Wednesday. “Didn’t ever think it was gonna be a problem, but obviously it was.”
The ordeal, Kreider said, gave him perspective and makes him grateful for what he has. Part of that appreciation is how the Rangers took care of him at every step.
“I think the whole time the entire organization was amazing dealing with it, from management right on down to my teammates, trainers, coaches, doctors — especially our doctors,” Kreider said. “It was obviously not something I want to go through, but the way they handled it was unbelievable, so I can’t say enough about that and how lucky I am just to be here in this organization. To have been treated the way I was, no words.”
Kreider has watched the Rangers’ games while recovering — except Sunday’s game, he said, when MSG Network’s technical difficulties turned him toward the radio. He has been emotional throughout.
“It’s hard not to be. I think everyone is when they’re not able to play,” he said. “You want to be in the trenches, you want to be there with the guys, so it’s hard.”
Perhaps in March he’ll rejoin them, but it will be sooner for Pavel Buchnevich, who also returned to practice Wednesday in a non-contact jersey after suffering a concussion on Feb. 1. He’s set to be cleared for contact for Friday’s practice, Vigneault said.
Vigneault added that Marc Staal, out since Feb. 3 with a cervical strain, is skating on his own and “doing better.” Ryan McDonagh, whose absence with an upper-body injury will extend to four games Thursday when the Rangers play the Islanders in Brooklyn, remains day-to-day.