The Rangers get back to work tomorrow night when they play host to the league-leading Stars at Madison Square Garden. Following a disappointing 3-0 shutout loss at Florida, they return home for three in a row. All come against good teams with winning records. The Caps visit Saturday and the Bruins next Monday.
With the team struggling mightily, they got some more bad news. It looks like Chris Kreider won’t be able to go tomorrow. He sustained a cut hand against the Panthers after Brandon Pirri went after him for his cross check from behind on Willie Mitchell.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Kreider is day-to-day. The organization is considering making a recall from Hartford. If they do, that means Emerson Etem is back in the doghouse following his awful game over the weekend. In 19 games, he has only three assists. How underwhelming can a former first round pick be after coming over from Anaheim for Carl Hagelin?
With Kevin Hayes returning to the lineup, the Rangers would still be a skater short if Etem sits out. During the morning practice, Etem skated with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. To be blunt, I’ve had enough of Vigneault’s experiment with Nash and Stepan. They have no chemistry. He should just put Nash back with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.
As for Hayes, let’s see if he gets it. After two straight games off, will the second-year forward respond? He remains stuck on six goals with 11 helpers in 37 contests. Sadly, Kreider is just a point better at 6-12-18 in all 39.
While most of the attention has been on the defense, the Blueshirts need much better performances from their younger forwards. That includes Stepan, who has only one assist since returning. In 29 games, he’s 6-7-13. That isn’t what they’re paying him $6.5 million for. He still makes smart defensive plays and is a strong penalty killer. But he must perform like the other top center. Brassard can’t do it alone.
They need two lines to be successful. If they had two lines that were going, it would make it a lot easier. Until they find some consistency including the coach who’s mixed and matched, it’ll continue to be a struggle.