PITTSBURGH — Ryan Lindgren was sidelined for Saturday night’s 7-4 loss to the Penguins with an undisclosed lower-body injury, which he suffered in Game 1 of the Rangers’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Penguins and now has kept him out of Games 2 and 3.
It was that exact possibility that prompted president and general manager Chris Drury to acquire veteran defenseman Justin Braun from the Flyers at the trade deadline in exchange for a third-round pick in next year’s draft.
Braun gives the Rangers the safety net of an experienced player to plug in on the back end.
“It’s huge,” said Adam Fox, who has played next to Braun with Lindgren, his long-time defensive partner, out. “He’s a steady presence, he plays a pretty simple game. I think he’s a pretty calm guy, so I think it helps everybody back there and not panicking or anything like that.
“There’s going to be shifts in momentum throughout the game, but he has a lot of experience playing a lot of big games and it definitely helps us out back there.”
In Game 2, Braun recorded one assist, one shot on goal, two blocked shots, three hits and a takeaway over 17:44 of ice time. On Saturday, Braun had a blocked shot over 16:40 of action.
Fox has almost exclusively played with Lindgren during his three NHL seasons, but the reigning Norris Trophy winner has made it work next to Braun. He noted that Braun does a good job of reading off him and that the 35-year-old’s simple playing style has been easy to adjust to.
While there are many differences between the playing styles of Braun and Lindgren, the technical side of the change is that the Braun is right-handed and Lindgren is left-handed.
“It didn’t seem like last game there was any challenges in terms of the opposite handedness,” Fox said. “[Braun] me on the blue line if he wants it in a certain spot before the game, so we talked about where his sticks going to be and everything like that. I think when you have two righties, you got to talk a little more.
“If I get on the left side, if he wants to come back and be on the left the whole time or if I’m going to play the left on that shift. I think it’s just a little more talking in terms of positioning. But other than that, the handedness, I think if you’re making a pass you’re looking where his stick is anyway.
“I think just the little things in the D zone, talking about it helps in terms of positioning.”
The controversial calls just keep coming in this series. Pittsburgh opened the scoring Saturday on one, when Brock McGinn chipped the puck up and over Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin while veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth backed up and dislodged the net just under two minutes into the game.
The initial call on the ice was no goal, but it went under review and was overturned, with the NHL citing that “Nemeth caused the net to be displaced from its moorings prior to the puck crossing the goal line.”
Nemeth was ultimately on the ice for three of the Penguins’ five goals prior to their two empty-netters in the third period.