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Rangers will be short on defense for another night

After days of maneuvering to make a trade for Patrick Kane feasible, the Rangers’ roster for the remainder of the season — 22 games and anything that follows in the playoffs — has started to take shape.

The key piece was acquiring Kane, which the Blueshirts did in a three-team deal Tuesday with the Blackhawks and Coyotes.

But the next step requires them to ensure that they have 18 skaters and two goalies available for their game Wednesday against Philadelphia.

That could get a bit tricky, especially after Kane’s $2.625 million cap hit, according to CapFriendly, leaves them little room to operate.

“We definitely took that into consideration,” Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury said on a conference call about the team’s lack of cap space. “There probably wasn’t another situation where we would have pushed the limits. But to get a Patrick Kane, you don’t get an opportunity like that very often.”

The effects of that trade will trickle down throughout the various positions.

Kane won’t play until Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against Ottawa, according to the Rangers.

Ryan Lindgren, who went to the bench after suffering an upper body injury against the Capitals, may not be ready to play Wednesday night against the Flyers.

Nine forwards and five defensemen participated in Tuesday’s practice, but Mika Zibanejad (maintenance), Barclay Goodrow (maintenance) and defenseman Ryan Lindgren (day-to-day, upper-body injury) didn’t participate.

Defenseman K’Andre Miller was suspended three games for spitting on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

Zibanejad and Goodrow should be fine for the game, head coach Gerard Gallant said, but when asked about any expectation that Lindgren would play, he responded, “I can’t say for sure.”

That could force the Rangers to use five defensemen again.

But this time, or whenever the need arises again, Gallant is willing to use that approach to navigate a shorthanded blue line again.

The Blueshirts demonstrated an ability to adapt.

Following Miller’s ejection for the spitting incident, they had to use four defensemen for most of Sunday’s game.

Ben Harpur, checking Alex Iafallo, played 28:04 in the Rangers' win over the Kings.
Ben Harpur, checking Alex Iafallo, played 28:04 in the Rangers’ win over the Kings.
Getty Images

“If you gotta do it over three games in four nights, there’d definitely be an issue,” Gallant said. “But the other night, I don’t think anybody felt tired during the game.”

Lindgren sustained his injury in the Blueshirts’ game Saturday against the Capitals, when T.J. Oshie shoved him into the boards from behind.

He missed Sunday’s game, too. For Ben Harpur, that meant skating a career-high 28:04 after only logging more than 15 minutes in three other games this year.

Harpur estimated the last time he skated that much in a game came with AHL Binghamton, when he played parts of two seasons with the Senators’ affiliate in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

He’d never been in a situation where a team only had four defensemen. Harpur, Niko Mikkola, Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox were in “survival mode” sitting on the bench during television timeouts and trying to maximize every second. They didn’t want to get stranded and take shifts that lasted 90 seconds — forwards needed to flip the puck in deep, Harpur said.

“The guys loved it the other night,” Gallant added. “Not one of them complained about it. Trust me. They were happy to get on the ice all night.”

Their simple approach benefited the defensemen, Harpur said. Gallant cracked a smile when discussing the Kings game, because the way his forwards helped defensively gave him all the film needed for when the Rangers have a full roster and someone underperforms.

“You can always bring that game up and say, ‘You guys played your asses off and you competed and you focused on the full 60 minutes and you helped your defensemen,’ ” Gallant said.

That experience could repeat itself Wednesday night if Lindgren doesn’t dress.

Or it could surface at another inopportune time during what the Blueshirts hope will turn into a lengthy postseason run.

The Rangers assigned Ryan Carpenter to AHL Hartford and recalled defenseman Braden Schneider, but Miller’s suspension negated that addition.

This time, Gallant knows the Rangers could handle the deficit.

“As a group, I think we’re not trying to think about it too much,” Harpur said when asked about playing shorthanded again. “We’re gonna go there, and whatever the circumstances might be, we’re gonna roll with it one shift at a time.”

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