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Hartnett: Rangers Can't Afford To Lose Callahan For The Long-Term

'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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Captain Ryan Callahan is the undoubted heart and soul of the New York Rangers.  The all-effort Callahan sets the tone with his energetic and fully-committed style of play, which drives the Rangers' successes.

It appears that "the heartbeat of the Rangers" could be lost for awhile after Callahan did not return to the ice after suffering an apparent shoulder injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. He is set to undergo an MRI on his left shoulder on Wednesday.

In a shortened season where every point is vital, the Rangers were dealt an unfortunate blow when Callahan scuffled with Maxime Talbot and fell to the ice in obvious pain.  He immediately skated off the ice and into the Rangers' locker room, favoring his left shoulder.

Talbot told Dave Lozo of that Callahan's shoulder "popped out."

"We decided to go and we were holding each other up, and his shoulder popped out or something," Talbot said. "Unfortunate ... I let him go. I kind of felt it, but then I saw his face as well."

Rangers fans are crossing their fingers and hoping that the injury will force Callahan to miss weeks rather than months.  In most cases, recovery from a separated shoulder not requiring surgery is between three to four weeks.

Let's imagine that Callahan misses the entire month of February.  That would be 12 games missed -- exactly a quarter of the 48-game NHL season.  Losing the services of their captain beyond a month could result in devastating consequences for the Blueshirts.

Without Callahan, Goals Will Be Hard To Come By

Callahan's power-play goal was the difference in the Rangers' hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday night.

Through six games, the Rangers are averaging 2.6 goals per game, and that's with a healthy Callahan.  Last season, Callahan scored 13 of the Rangers' 44 total power-play goals -- that's 29.5 percent.  Rick Nash was acquired to be a difference-maker on the power play  though it should be noted that he only scored 6 power-play goals in the past two seasons as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Furthermore, the Rangers' lack of scoring depth has been a major concern six games into their young season.  Goals have been hard to come by outside of their loaded top line of Marian Gaborik- Brad Richards-Nash.  Among Rangers forward, only the top-line trio, Callahan and Taylor Pyatt have found the net this season.

As a team, the Rangers have only scored 16 goals while surrendering 17 this season.  A worrying goal differential of -1 isn't what general manager Glen Sather anticipated after adding Nash to a team that finished with the best overall record in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12.

Potential Absence Of Callahan Would Impact Rangers In All Areas

Callahan is an all-situation player who makes an impact all over the ice.  His example forces teammates to raise their competitive fires.

An inspirational leader, an instinctive goal-getter, an expert penalty-killer, a tenacious forechecker, a leading hitter, a fearless shot blocker.  These are all attributes that Callahan brings to the table.

John Tortorella offered little insight on Callahan's injury when asked for an update by reporters during his postgame press conference.

"I have no idea," Tortorella told the media on Tuesday.

As a guide, here are examples of notable players who lost significant time due to dislocated shoulder injuries in recent years:

- Justin Williams missed 9 games in the 2011-12 season

- Sergei Gonchar missed 56 games in the 2008-09 season

- Adrian Aucion was lost for 31 games (remainder of the 2005-06 season)

- John LeClair missed 47 games in the 2002-03 season

All of these injuries occurred in standard 82-game NHL seasons.

Ryan Murray, the second overall draft pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets, is currently in the process of a six-month recovery after undergoing surgery to repair a left dislocated shoulder.

A Painful Reminder?

The last time the Rangers lost Callahan for an extended period was on the eve of the 2011 NHL playoffs.  Callahan stepped in front of a Zdeno Chara slapshot and broke his ankle, missing the remainder of the 2010-11 season and the entire playoffs.

Without Callahan, the Rangers were eliminated in the opening round of the 2011 NHL playoffs by the Washington Capitals in five games.

I'm not suggesting that Callahan will miss the entire 2013 season, but I am openly pondering how much Callahan's all-around contributions cover up some of the Rangers' deficiencies.

Odds are that we're about to find out.

Are the Rangers in big trouble if Callahan misses significant time?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.

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