The New York Rangers enter the mandatory five-day off period on the heels of two victories. The first was a 5-2 dispatching of the Philadelphia Flyers and the second a dazzling come from behind 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although the victory is one that stands out, it was one of the Rangers’ worse games for the better part of 40 minutes. You don’t want to say that the team was sleep walking into the break, but it sure looked like it as they easily went down 2-0 early in the first period. Ultimately the Rangers got the ending they wanted, and now they sit idle until Friday in which they will face off against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers are hoping the break is a positive one, as they look to use it to improve the overall health of the team. Pavel Buchnevich appeared in his first game with the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, January 6, and he scored a goal.
He is expected to play in a few games for the Pack to get back into game shape. Be sure to check out Blueshirt Bulletin as we monitor Buchnevich during his stint in Hartford as he gears up for a return to the Rangers. The Rangers rookie was off to a great start with four goals and four assists for eight points in ten games, and he will be a welcome addition to the lineup when is ready.
Rick Nash, when asked about his groin injury, feels “it’s going in the right direction. I think this bye week’s coming at a perfect time for me.” Nash is optimistic he can return soon and is in a better spot than when he returned from his last injury on December 15 against the Dallas Stars. There is no doubt that the Rangers would love to get him back as soon as possible, as Nash is in the midst of a bounce-back season in which he’s scored 13 goals and added seven assists for 20 points in 30 games played. He’s been a bull on the puck all season long, and he is just chomping at the bit to get back into the lineup.
The Rangers are also optimistic about Mika Zibanejad, and he is on track to return shortly after the break. Zibanejad has been out since breaking his leg against the Florida Panthers on November 20 and was able to skate on his own on Friday. When asked about how close Zibanejad was to returning, Vigneault said,”It will probably be a matter of getting a couple practices in. Feeling good about his conditioning and feeling good physically and mentally, and we’ll make a call from there.”
Like Nash, Zibanejad was off to a scorching start with five goals and ten assists for 15 points in just 19 games. The Rangers are likely to see a significant boost to their power play upon Zibanejad’s return because he is a great triggerman with a quick and booming one-timer. His return to the lineup will cause the Rangers to shuffle things around at center, but will ultimately strengthen their center depth.
Leaders at the Break
Goals: Michael Grabner |18
Assists: Ryan McDonagh | 25
Points: Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan | 31
Wins: Henrik Lundqvist | 18
Goals Against Average: Antti Raanta | 2.28
Save Percentage: Antti Raanta |.921
Overall the Rangers sit second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 28-13-1 and 57 points. They have scored 146 goals while allowing 107. The forwards have been great this season, the collective duo of Antti Raanta and Henrik Lundqvist has gotten the job done on most nights, but the defense is still very much an issue. Hopefully, the coaching staff and management addresses this in the coming weeks before the trade deadline because doing so would put the Rangers in a position to contend for a championship. As it stands the addition of Nash, Zibanejad and Buchnevich will feel like an amazing trade deadline acquisition, but another top-four defenseman would be a cherry on top.