The carousel of Rangers injuries kept spinning as Michael Grabner was able to return for a 4-2 loss to the Kings on Sunday night at Staples Center after missing Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Avalanche in Denver with the flu.
The return of Granber brought Daniel Catenacci out of the lineup after he made his Rangers debut Saturday. Before Saturday, Grabner had played all of the team’s first 46 games and was leading the team with 20 goals.
Grabner got 13:08 of ice time on a line with Peter Holland and Jesper Fast, a combination coach Alain Vigneault seemed enamored of in their two games together during the week at the Garden, consecutive victories over the Flyers and Sabres.
Also joining Grabner back in the lineup was defenseman Marc Staal, who had been out the past two games with a hip pointer injury. Staal was hurt in the team’s 5-1 win over the Flyers on Tuesday at the Garden, and he didn’t return for the start of the third period. He bumped Steven Kampfer from the lineup after Kampfer had played in the past two straight and five of the past six.
Staal played 16:48 on the right side of a duo with Brady Skjei, while Tony DeAngelo stayed in for his second straight on the third pair with Brendan Smith.
The only rehabbing player that was not able to return was center Kevin Hayes, who missed his fifth straight with a leg contusion. Hayes was hurt Jan. 7 against the Golden Knights but playing Jan. 13 against the Islanders before the pain became worse and it forced him from the lineup.
Hayes skated with Staal on Sunday morning at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo, Calif. The team has an off day Monday before continuing with the third leg of this four-game road trip Tuesday night in Anaheim against the Ducks.
Sunday marked the first time in more than 60 years the Knicks and Rangers played on the same day in the same venue that is not Madison Square Garden. Back on Feb. 3, 1957, at the Boston Garden, the Rangers lost to the Bruins 4-1, and the Knicks lost to the Celtics 116-98.
Before the Rangers took on the Kings on Sunday night at Staples Center, the Knicks lost the matinee to the Lakers 127-107.
The only forward line that Vigneault kept intact was his top unit of Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich. He did decide to keep J.T. Miller at center, this time centering Jimmy Vesey and Mats Zuccarello, while the fourth line was Paul Carey-David Desharnais-Vinni Lettieri.