It seems more likely than not Kevin Hayes will be sidelined when the Rangers come out of their bye week with Saturday afternoon’s match at the Garden against the Islanders.
“Fifty-fifty maybe, at best,” coach Alain Vigneault said after the Rangers’ checking center went through practice Friday afternoon. “Before coming to the rink, I anticipated that he would be able to play, but [not] after talking with him and [trainer Jim Ramsay].”
Vigneault said he probably would move J.T. Miller back into the middle if Hayes, who left Sunday’s defeat in Las Vegas after one second-period shift with a lower body contusion he sustained on a first-period hit from Nate Schmidt, is unable to go.
That would mean breaking up the first line of Miller, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello that was intact for practice. Vinni Lettieri, recalled Friday from the AHL Wolf Pack, thus would be assured a spot in the lineup, as would Pavel Buchnevich, a healthy scratch against the Golden Knights.
Hayes returned from Las Vegas immediately following Sunday’s match and spent the week getting treatment.
Brendan Smith is scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the second straight match and the 10th time in 43 games as Vigneault plans to keep Steven Kampfer in the lineup to skate on the third-pair right side with Marc Staal.
Vigneault said he likes the left-right balance the tandem presents, which allows the team to move the puck more quickly out of its own end. Kampfer, the righty, had been scratched for 16 straight before Sunday.
This certainly is not what the Rangers envisioned when they signed the 28-year-old Smith to four-year, $17.4 million extension days before the defenseman would have be eligible to test the market as a free agent. Indeed, the emotionally charged Smith was one of his team’s best and most important players in the playoffs following his trade deadline acquisition from the Red Wings.
“Smitty would probably be the first to tell you that he could be better,” Vigneault said. “He hasn’t been the same player we saw in last year’s playoffs.”
Lias Andersson, who played through a shoulder separation during the medal round of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, is continuing his rehab at the Blueshirts’ practice facility.
The Post has learned that the 19-year-old, seventh-overall selection in last year’s draft, who is playing for Frolunda of the SEL, is under consideration for Sweden’s Olympic Team.
Additionally, it remains a possibility the Blueshirts may summon Andersson to play for the team later this season.
Chris Kreider, who underwent rib resection surgery last Sunday, visited the practice facility Friday. Kreider, who will be reevaluated in six weeks, can begin to work out as soon as the pain threshold allows.
Henrik Lundqvist said he was “super excited” to be named to play in the Jan. 28 All-Star Game in Tampa. It will mark the King’s fourth All-Star experience and first since 2011-12. There was no game in either 2013 (lockout) or 2014 (Olympics).
“You want to measure yourself against the best,” said Lundqvist, who was memorably annoyed by his 2015-16 snub. “You want to compete against them.”
Vigneault said the selection, “Proves that you can improve at any age if you want to put in the time and effort [and] Hank has always put in the time and effort.”