Chris Kreider missed the final and most important six games of the Rangers’ season with an “impact-based injury, a lower-back issue and muscle spasms,” the winger said Monday during the team’s end-of-season media availability.
“Getting injured at the time of year that it occurred was one of the more frustrating things that I’ve ever dealt with in my pro career,” he said. “You’re in position with six games left where chips might’ve been down but I think we had some control over our own destiny if we continued winning hockey games.
“It really, really hurt, not being able to play in those two Islanders games.”
The 30-year-old added that he couldn’t get his injuries to calm down so that he could play without hindering the team.
“It ripped my heart out,” said Kreider, who finished the season with 20 goals and 10 assists, including a team-high 11 power-play goals.
When the Rangers were set to play the home-and-home series against the Islanders on April 29 and May 1, their playoff hopes were still alive. They had just come off a 7-3 run, which included a 6-0 stretch against the Devils and Sabres, and were hovering over the fourth-place Bruins.
But Kreider was deemed a game-time decision ahead of the first of two against the Islanders and was unable to play. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren was then injured during that game following a collision with Cal Clutterbuck, just nine days after the team lost Jacob Trouba in the 6-1 loss to the Isles on April 20.
The Blueshirts were suddenly without three of their most physical players heading into the most crucial stretch of their season. As a result, they were eliminated on May 3 amid a five-game losing streak before pulling out a 5-4 win over the Bruins to wrap up 2020-21.
“I think our attitude starting right now when we leave the rink is we’re making the playoffs next year,” Kreider said. “That’s our goal and everything that we do everything that we work toward over the course of the summer going into the preseason is going to be built toward that one goal.”