Chad Ruhwedel finally getting his Rangers chance with blueline injuries mounting

Chad Ruhwedel’s early Rangers days were humbling.

A 12-year veteran who spent the last seven-plus seasons with the Penguins, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2016-17, Ruhwedel was acquired by the Rangers ahead of the trade deadline for a 2027 fourth-round pick as defensive depth.

With Jacob Trouba out with a lower-body injury, Ruhwedel was expected to slot into the lineup and help fill that void.

Chad Ruhwedel was a healthy scratch for his first six games after getting traded to the Rangers. Charles Wenzelberg

But he was a healthy scratch for his first six games with the team, including a 7-4 win over the Penguins at his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh.

He received a video tribute from the team, but was forced to embrace the fans from the press box since he was not playing.

But Ryan Lindgren’s injury, also to his lower body, finally brought Ruhwedel into the fold.

He’s played the last three games, in which the Rangers went 2-1-0.

Ruhwedel, 33, has averaged 13:53 of ice time in those games.

“It’s always better to be playing,” Ruhwedel told The Post after practice on Monday. “Just [now] getting in the groove and all that kind of stuff. When you’re not in, just making sure you’re staying ready mentally, physically. The staff is great keeping guys in shape, great that way. I find the hard part is mentally. So just staying dialed in that way so when your name is called, you’re ready to go.”

And now with Erik Gustafsson day-to-day with an upper-body injury, which he sustained during overtime of the team’s 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers on Saturday, the Rangers have a bit of an injury crisis on their blue line.

But Ruhwedel, who played in all seven games against the Rangers in their 2022 first-round playoff series loss to the Penguins, has helped make sure his new side hardly missed a step.

The Rangers have needed Chad Ruhwedel in their lineup following an injury to Ryan Lindgren. AP

The Rangers have gone 7-2-0 since Trouba’s injury, losing Lindgren and likely Gustafsson along the way.

They surrendered 22 goals in that nine-game stretch.

“It just shows the kind of character [we have] in this room, the kind of players that [the front office] brings in, that [we] have in [our] organization that are just ready to go,” Ruhwedel said. “Next man up has contributed. It’s been good for the last few games.”

Along with Ruhwedel, the plethora of defensive injuries have prompted Zac Jones to receive a strong run of games as well.

In his fourth year, Jones, 23, had gone over a month without playing before Trouba’s injury brought him back into the lineup.

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At first it was Jones, not Ruhwedel, who head coach Peter Laviolette opted for.

But now, both are certainly needed.

“The guys that have come into the lineup have played really well,” Laviolette said on Monday. “You see Ruhwedel jump in there and [he’s] done really well for a few games for us now. Jones has been rock solid for a long time now for us, playing extremely well with a lot of confidence.

“Guys moving up the lineup, taking on more minutes, more responsibility, they’ve done an excellent job. And we’ve done it against some pretty high-end caliber opponents, which is also impressive. We need that. We’ve got guys that are out, we have to have guys to step in and fill those minutes and do the job, and they have.”

Chad Ruhwedel recorded eight hits in the Rangers’ win against the Bruins on March 21. AP

Trouba and Lindgren are two of the Rangers’ most physical players, a style of play which can’t be fully expected to be replicated without them.

It’s now become more of a team effort, with Ruhwedel and Jones acknowledging they have to answer the call in that part of their game.

Ruhwedel recorded a whopping eight hits during the Rangers’ 5-2 statement win over the Bruins last Thursday.

And the Rangers will next face the Flyers, one of the league’s more physical teams, on Tuesday.

“We know what [Trouba and Lindgren] bring to the lineup, which is a lot of physicality, so everyone else is stepping up, playing with a little bit more edge,” Ruhwedel said. “Not necessarily to make up for it, we just know we gotta step up and have that presence.”

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