How Will Rangers Cope Without Zibanejad?

The Rangers might be able to survive a reasonably short stint without Mika Zibanejad as their No. 1 center.

But can they make the power play go in his absence?

The team announced Thursday that Zibanejad is suffering from concussion symptoms. There, of course, is no timetable for his return.

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Zibanejad was originally hurt on a hit by Detroit’s Darren Helm late in Friday’s game at The Garden. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the 24-year-old was checked out after the contest, felt fine, played the next game against Vancouver Sunday, then experienced symptoms prior to Tuesday’s morning skate.

Vigneault called upon David Desharnais, who would have been scratched, around 5:30 and told him to take warmups. Zibanejad took warmups, too, and determined he could not play.

Desharnais slipped into Zibanejad’s spot between Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich and had three assists as that line combined for nine points.

“It’s a long season,” Kreider said Thursday. “Injuries are a part of it, but it’s obviously a tough one. It’s that ‘Next Man Up” mentality. Everyone has to fill the role to the best of their abilities and hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later because he’s an integral part of our team.”

As important as Zibanejad’s been as the new No. 1 center, his role is more critical for the power play, as that right-handed shooter from “Alex Ovechkin’s Office” in the left circle. Zibanejad has been on the ice for 14 of the Rangers’ 18 power-play goals and has five goals and six assists on the power play.

“It changes the look for sure,” said power-play quarterback Kevin Shattenkirk, the team’s only other righty shot on the first two units. “We need to realize that that play might take an extra second or two, and that’s something we worked on today – just the timing of it. But we need to make sure that that side is still effective and that we’re still getting shots from there and making sure teams are worried about it because it makes our power play a lot more dynamic.”

Vigneault said that Zibenajad’s absence changes the way the power play operates.

“Yes,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of right-handed shots. On one unit we don’t have any. And now we’ve gone from two to one, so it does change the dynamics and certain plays you can make. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to make the plays that are available and make them work, because the power play’s been a big weapon for us this year.”

Kreider summed it up with simplicity.

“Not discrediting anything Mika’s done on the power play, but the reason the power play works is because five guys are doing their jobs,” Kreider said. “So we just need whoever steps into that spot to do their job.

“Obviously Mika has a tremendous shot and has been hitting his spots, and is great on draws for us there, and you need to have that shooting mentality on the power play. So, you lose a guy like that you need the other guys to shoot more. You’ve got to continue to get pucks to the net because that’s what makes a power play successful.”

The Rangers did get some good news, that captain Ryan McDonagh will return after missing four games with an abdominal strain, as they start a spread-out four-game stretch against divisional opponents, starting Friday against Carolina at The Garden.

“Always nice to have him back on the back end,” Shattenkirk said. “He’s someone who plays all facets and all situations of the game and we’re obviously thrilled to have him back. He’s someone who’s going to instantly affect our team in a positive way.”

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