Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! Since the Rangers went 11-1 in 12 games dating back from Nov. 8 – Dec. 7, the team is currently in the midst of a slump, going 2-3-1 in their last six games. The Blueshirts have had difficulty scoring goals as the most they have tallied in a game has been three, which they did in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 8. The team is coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last Friday and have no games this week after they saw games postponed due to COVID. Let’s take a look at some of the latest news surrounding the Rangers.
Panarin Injured Against Coyotes, Shesterkin Nearing Return
Artemi Panarin left last Wednesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period. Head coach Gerard Gallant revealed that he suffered a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. It is to be determined if the forward will be able to play in next week’s slate of games before New Year’s Day.
Igor Shesterkin, who has been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 3, has been taken off of injured reserve (IR) and goaltender Keith Kinkaid has been sent down to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). The Rangers starting goaltender has been one of the more significant players in the team’s success and his return will provide a boost for the team. The Moscow, Russia native has a record of 13-3-2, a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.05 and a .937 save percentage in 18 games played this season.
Nemeth Enters COVID Protocol
Patrik Nemeth was placed in COVID protocol yesterday as the NHL has experienced a surge in players entering protocol amid several games being postponed through Christmas due to COVID-19. The defenseman has a stat line of 0-2-2 and a plus/minus (+/-) of -7 in 30 games played for the Blueshirts. He has played primarily on the third defensive pair with Nils Lundkvist.
Lundkvist returned to practice on Friday after missing four games with a non-COVID illness. The rookie defenseman may be available for Wednesday’s game. He has played in 21 games this year and has one goal, three assists and a 2 +/-.
Jones Scratched From Wolf Pack Game
Zac Jones, a defenseman currently play for the Wolf Pack, was a healthy scratch for the team’s game last night against the Springfield Thunderbirds, a 6-4 loss for Hartford. The defenseman played in 10 games last season for the Rangers and had four assists along with a -2 (+/-). He impressed Gallant during training camp, who had good things to say about the 21-year-old.
Related: Rangers’ Best Third Defense Pair Might Be Playing in Hartford
“Jonesy didn’t do nothing wrong. He’s played well and it’s all about numbers and how many you can keep on your roster. Everything Jonesy’s done at camp was excellent. He’s going in the right direction, and again, Lundkvist’s has played very good hockey too” (from ‘Rangers Roundup: Zac Jones scratched in Hartford, keeping Chytil on wing, and more,’ Forever Blueshirts, 12/19/21).
In 20 games played for the Wolf Pack, he has a stat line of 4-11-15 and is tied with Tanner Fritz for third on the team in points. With Nemeth in COVID protocol, Jones may get another opportunity with the Blueshirts as he has been the top defenseman with the Wolf Pack this year. Libor Hajek and Nemeth were the current third defensive pairing with Lundkvist unavailable to play.
Zibanejad’s Improved Play, Chytil Moved to Wing Position
Mika Zibanejad has two straight games with a goal and an assist since Panarin was injured. He has the reputation of being streaky with his goal-scoring but has been a consistent contributor with assists as he ranks third on the team with 18. If Panarin remains out, Zibanejad will need to continue to fill the void left by the Rangers’ best playmaker.
Related: 3 Takeaways from the Rangers’ 3-2 Win Over The Arizona Coyotes – 12/15/21
Filip Chytil, who was a healthy scratch during the game against the Coyotes, was moved from center to left-wing for the last game against the Golden Knights. In regards to making him a healthy scratch, Gallant said “Sometimes you need lessons. I’m not saying it was a lesson tonight but [McKegg] been a great guy for us, so we’ll see where it goes” (from ‘Report: Artemi Panarin out for Rangers; Alexis Lafreniere moves up and Filip Chytil on wing,’ Forever Blueshirts, 12/17/21).
Larry Brooks, who covers the Rangers for the New York Post, said on the most recent episode of the Up In The Blue Seats podcast, that at the center position “[Chytil] does not distribute the puck especially well. I don’t think he has great vision in the middle, either. He doesn’t make his wingers better. I just don’t quite see the improvement from year-to-year on Filip.”
The Rangers are entering the Christmas break on a bad note. The team is struggling to score, which is concerning, as they did not play a consistent game against the Coyotes. However, the team is still young and will have its share of ups and downs despite its overall success thus far in 2021-22.