The mumps –confirmation tests pending- have struck the Rangers organization yet again, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. On Thursday, the organization announced that three more have fallen sick, and have been isolated with suspected mumps symptoms, and perhaps the most worrisome part is that it’s made its way down to their AHL affiliate in Hartford.
The three latest to fall ill are Rangers forward Lee Stempniak, Hartford Wolf Pack winger Joey Crabb, and Hartford Head Coach Ken Gernander, all of whom will be isolated for the next five days. This has all come, of course, after both Tanner Glass –who has returned to the Ranger lineup- and Derick Brassard –who is set to begin skating with the team again- both went through five days of isolation due to the mumps.
Oh you know… just a typical Thursday. pic.twitter.com/Yh2IV2pduP
— Hartford Wolf Pack (@WolfPackAHL) December 18, 2014
But as concerning as this outbreak has become, the Rangers have handled the situation remarkably well on the ice.
When Tanner Glass became the first Ranger to go down with the disease, JT Miller filled in seamlessly, plugging the void on the fourth line. Then, when it was Brassard’s turn with the mumps, Miller moved up to the first line center spot, and Glass was reinserted into the lineup on the aforementioned fourth line.
The Rangers did more than okay with that setup, as they won all three of their games in Western Canada, and are returning east with a season-high four game winning streak. But with the latest bout of mumps hitting the Rangers, it begs the question of just how long they can keep up this play with so many falling ill?
It is still unknown whether or not Brassard will be in good enough condition following his isolation to return to the lineup on Saturday in Carolina. If he isn’t, that would put the Rangers down another forward from what they were already dealing with on Tuesday in Calgary. In turn, a call-up from Hartford would become necessary.
Under normal circumstances, another Hartford call-up would be just what the doctor ordered, as most players who have joined from Hartford have done so quite well this season. However, given the current situation which has both the Rangers and the Wolf Pack now dealing with an outbreak, a recall could just continue the vicious cycle, and contribute to the further spreading of the illness between both Hartford and New York.
If Brassard is healthy enough to play, though, a call up may not be necessary anyway. More will be known following Friday’s practice.
The Rangers, and the league as a whole, are taking precautions though, as Head Coach Alain Vigneault noted when talking to the media yesterday:
“There’s a full protocol here that’s been installed by the NHL,” Vigneault told reporters, all of which he added is mandated by the league. He went on to say, “There’s a whole bunch of things that [the medical staff] needs to do prior to the guys getting there, after the guys get there, disinfecting, etc., etc.”
Additionally, the Rangers have gotten rid of roommates on the road, so everyone, including those on their entry-level contracts –Hayes, Fast, and Miller- will have their own single hotel rooms when traveling.
But as hard as the league and the Rangers are working to halt the spread of the mumps, the problem lies with the virus itself. The incubation period for the mumps is typically between 16 and 18 days, which means there could be a whole host of Rangers, who, despite the latest precautions, are walking around feeling healthy now, but may not know that they are just moments from showing symptoms and falling sick.
Luckily for the Rangers, the one man who they really couldn’t afford to lose, Henrik Lundqvist, has already been vaccinated not once, but twice, as he had a shot last year prior to heading to the Olympics, and again a few weeks ago when this NHL outbreak began. Blueshirts fans can only hope that two vaccines are enough to protect the King.
In talking about the rest of the team, Lundqvist told reporters, “The trainers here are trying to do a good job of keeping everything clean and you can’t think too much about it. If you get it, you get it. Obviously it’s not good to see that many players get sick.”
League wide precautions or not, the spread of the mumps is continuing. The fact that they’ve continued to win games through it all is a testament to this Rangers team, but as more and more fall sick within the organization, keeping pace will become a tougher, taller task.
A touch over two weeks is the magic time frame. While I am definitely no doctor, it would seem to me that if the Rangers can go that long without any new mumps patients, then they will more than likely be in the clear from this current bout.
Until then, it’s a guessing game as to who will be next. For now, though, the only job the Rangers have is to stay focused, and prepare for Saturday’s tilt with the Hurricanes. After all, there is still a four game winning streak on the line.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.