You could excuse the Rangers if they had flashbacks to Hugh Jessiman, the 12th-overall selection of the 2003 entry draft who tore a left ankle ligament in his second game of his junior season at Dartmouth, never was the same following surgery and never played a game for the Blueshirts.
For on Saturday night in Madison, Wis., 22nd-overall selection K’Andre Miller crashed into the end boards after wiping out on an end-to-end rush and was unable to put much, if any, weight on his left leg as the freshman defenseman left the ice late in Wisconsin’s 4-1 loss to Ohio State.
But though there was no official update Sunday from the Badgers’ athletic department, the injury may not be as ominous as immediately feared.
Wisconsin assistant SID Paul Capobianco told The Post in an email the 19-year-old, who won a silver medal for Team USA in the World Junior tournament and has 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 26 games for the Badgers, is “sore” with a “lower body injury” and will be evaluated on Monday.
The Blueshirts went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the second time on the homestand and the fourth time this season for the Rangers’ 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs, with Neal Pionk returning to the lineup following Friday’s scratch while Vinni Lettieri sat.
“I’m getting more comfortable with that, for sure,” David Quinn said. “You’ve just got to put your best lineup out there, regardless of positions. I’d prefer not to do it, but I’m getting more comfortable with it and I think our guys are, too.
“You’ve got to find a balance with ice time and a balance with your 11 forwards, too, you’re mixing and matching up there, but at the end of the day, real players can play with anybody
The approaching Feb. 25 trade deadline may have contributed to the decision to go with seven defensemen. Not only has Brendan Smith played well enough through the five-game homestand to merit a lineup spot, it is in the Blueshirts’ best interests to continue to showcase No. 42.
Lettieri, recalled on Wednesday in the wake of Cody McLeod’s trade to Nashville, played eight shifts for 5:51 in Friday’s 3-0 defeat to Carolina after getting eight shifts for 7:12 in Wednesday’s shootout victory over the Bruins.