Quinn tweaks lines again with Kakko moving up, splits up Zibanejad and Panarin


The David Quinn line experiment continues. The Combos master has once again tweaked his lines. As reported by Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post, here are what they looked like in practice.

Basically, Quinn took my suggestion of breaking up Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. Something I tweeted about earlier.

That was in reply to legendary former Rangers blogger Kevin DeLury, who ran The NYR Blog. Now, he co-hosts a new Rangers podcast once a week. It’s called Go Rangers Radio with Paul Cuthbert. DeLury and he work quite well. They also keep it light, which you have to. One of the must listens for any Blueshirts fans.

My takeaway on the new line combos is that it looks a lot better. Finally, we’ll get to see Kaapo Kakko make his debut with Zibanejad on the first line. It’s interesting that Quinn decided to bump up Chris Kreider, who’s really struggled for offense so far. He and Zibanejad have chemistry. So, it should work.

The second line will be centered by Ryan Strome as I suggested. Right now, he’s the best option. He has four assists thus far including a nice primary one on Tony DeAngelo’s second goal last night. It’ll be Strome between Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich. I like the idea of the two Russians playing together. They showed early chemistry. I’d like to see Buchnevich look for his shot more. He’s very unselfish. He likes to defer to Panarin.

I honestly thought it would be the KZB Line reunited while Kakko played with Panarin and Strome. However, I’m definitely okay with this development. The key will be for the coach to allow the new lines a chance to jell. He can’t keep mixing and matching like he’s deciding between pepperoni, nacho cheese or pizza Combos at a convenient store.

The only other change I’d make is flipping Brett Howden and Lias Andersson. Howden is the third center between Brendan Lemieux and Jesper Fast. Andersson is stuck in purgatory with Greg McKegg and Brendan Smith, who’s taken an unfair beating from frustrated fans. I get it. How can he get more shifts than our young players? But he hasn’t played poorly. Smith has given an honest effort, which is more than I can say for quite a few Rangers.

The D on the other hand puzzles me. You didn’t acquire and pay Jacob Trouba top dollar to have him on the second pair with rookie Libor Hajek, whose possession numbers are almost as bad as Marc Staal. Speaking of which, can anyone explain the rationale for using Staal on the top pair? Adam Fox cannot carry him that much? By doing that, they’re giving Staal the toughest match-ups. No wonder he’s struggling.

I like what I’ve seen from Fox, who has over a 50.0 Corsi. Something that’s a rarity. I’m not big on charts. But the numbers don’t lie. If Brady Skjei was performing to expectation, none of this would be happening. He is to blame for the current state of the blueline. He must be more consistent. Instead, he’s on the third pair with DeAngelo. I want to see Skjei and Fox together as a second pair. Have Staal go back to DeAngelo, but as a sheltered third pair at five-on-five.

That makes the most sense. I also want to see Ryan Lindgren already. He deserves another look. He’s a lot more physical than Hajek, who’s a better skater. He didn’t get rewarded for having a better camp. Funny. Hasn’t that happened with Andersson too while Howden is more trusted?

The Sabres are visiting tomorrow. They are off to a unreal start. It probably won’t get better. I’m curious to see who’s in net. Do they stick with Alexandar Georgiev or go back to Henrik Lundqvist? Probably Hank.

That’ll do it for now. But before I go, I see the Devils play their first game this Friday since Mackenzie Blackwood shutout the Canucks last Saturday. Then don’t play again until the middle of next week. NHL scheduling!

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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