The New York Rangers took Wednesday off to heal their wounds, but Philadelphia Flyer right wing Trent Klatt needed the day to heal wounded feelings within his family.
Klatt dropped Ranger center Ken Gernander with a shoulder hit during the first period of the Flyers' 6-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Gernander left Madison Square Garden with a concussion, a slight shoulder separation and the sympathy of Klatt, who happens to be his brother-in-law.
Klatt and Gernander, teammates at the University of Minnesota, are married to twin sisters. But in the heat of playoff battle, duty came first.
"I knew it was him, but I didn't try to hit him hard," said Klatt, who drilled Ranger defenseman Brian Leetch into the boards in Game 2, causing Leetch to sprain his right wrist. "You've got to do your job when the puck is dropped on the ice. I have to play the body there. I'm sure he would have done the same thing."
Klatt, who scored the game-winner on a two-on-one break with Shjon Podein, was described by Ranger Coach Colin Campbell as "probably their most effective player in the playoffs." That's no exaggeration, given Klatt's four goals, seven points and physical play. Not bad for a guy who played so badly in training camp he was made available in the preseason waiver draft.
"He used that as an opportunity to show everybody he could play," Flyer Coach Terry Murray said. "I used him more as a checker early in the season but then the puck started going in the net for him and he had 24 goals. . . . You've got to have these kinds of players."
Campbell said Leetch is improving rapidly and insisted only his wrist is injured, denying ESPN analyst Barry Melrose's assertion Leetch had hurt his shoulder. Campbell said even though teams are often less than truthful in such matters, nothing is being hidden in this case. Leetch, whose 20 minutes of ice time Tuesday were 12 below his average, said he expects the wrist to be fine when the series resumes Friday at New York. . . . Ranger defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev will miss his second game after his mother's death. . . . Murray enjoyed the wild Garden atmosphere Wednesday. "The fans were chanting for Hexy," he said, referring to jeers showered on Flyer goalie Ron Hextall. "I was a little jealous that they liked him maybe more than they like me."
With four forwards injured, the Rangers' already thin forward corps is exhausted and can't play as physical a style as Campbell would like. "We don't have the people up front to do the damage we'd like to do to their defensemen," Campbell said. "Their defensemen are instrumental to their attack, and we have to find some way to stop them." Campbell cited overwork to explain 36-year-old Mark Messier's paltry output of three goals and 11 points in 13 games. "Injuries have affected healthy guys to the point where we're expecting too much out of guys in Mark's situation," he said. "There's nothing wrong with Mark other than playing a lot of physical hockey."