6:38PM: Kevin Rooney, not Phil Di Giuseppe will play on the fourth line.
3:34PM: Some of what David Quinn said before tonight’s game (NYR):
- On using Buchnevich and Kreider on the PK, “one of the things I think we have done is be shorthanded from a PK standpoint and to me, if you have an opportunity to pressure and have a PK that can get after people and pressure, you’re going to need more people doing it. Buchnevich had killed a lot of penalties when he played in Russia. We’ve been thinking about using Kreider forever, since we’ve been here, and every time we do it, if something doesn’t go well in the first shift or two, we stop doing it. We are committed to letting it work with Chris, regardless, from a mistake standpoint, that is how he’s going to learn and we’ve got to give him an opportunity to learn on the go and use his speed to his advantage, because I know that if I was a defenseman and I got Chris Kreider coming out at me at the blue line, I’m going to be a little nervous knowing the kind of speed he has. It’s just trying to find ways to get more people involved and be more aggressive and be in people’s faces on the PK.”
- On Jack Johnson, “I certainly like what I’ve seen. Jack and I have a history, I coached him in Ann Arbor when he was 16-years old and always thought an awful lot about him as a player and a person. He’s such a pro, he comes to the rink everyday, working hard, a great example for our young players. I think he’s got a really bad rap, I know stastically people want to harp on him, but we really believe he’s going to do a good job for us and be a help to us on the blue line in a lot of ways, not only from a PK standpoint, but defending and he’s a great example for the young players.”
- Is Mika a go, “he’s a go and Mika only goes ‘full bore,’ so we will see full Mika tonight.”
10:33AM: The Rangers open the 2021 season tonight against the Islanders.
The Rangers are slated to use the following lines:
- Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich
- Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome, Kaapo Kakko
- Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier
- Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden, Phil Di Giuseppe
- K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba
- Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox
- Jack Johnson, Tony DeAngelo
- Igor Shesterkin
The Rangers announced on Wednesday that they would not be naming a Captain to start the season and that returning alternate captains Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider would be joined by Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin.
Adam Rotter: Opening night is here and the Rangers will come into this season with a roster that certainly looks talented enough to make a run at one of the top-four spots in their division and the playoffs for the first time since their 2017 second-round loss to Ottawa. On paper, they are pretty set in goal with Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev, they appear to have more than enough offensive firepower in their top-nine and a more mobile defense. In reality though, they are one of, if not the youngest team in the league, relying heavily on a goalie with 12 starts, plus one in the return to play, a number of rookie and second-year players, a number one center that just had Covid and they are in easily the toughest division where six, maybe seven if the Sabres can pull things together, are all battling for just four playoff spots.
None of those things disqualify the Rangers from being a playoff team, but it’s going to be a rough road, in a compressed schedule and they still have many players learning what it takes to succeed in the NHL. I think they can do it, especially if Shesterkin and Georgiev can carry them on nights where the Rangers don’t have it, and they still have a player in Artemi Panarin that was top-three in MVP voting. They are on the right track and on track to be a playoff team, but that may not come until next year, when it’s a regular schedule and everyone has a first or another year under their belt.
As for them not naming a captain, I’m both surprised and not surprised. Mika Zibanejad has more than earned the “C” over the last few years, but he’s only under contract for two-more years and there must be another underlying reason why they won’t stitch it on to his jersey. Maybe they worry the weight of the “C” will hurt his game, maybe they don’t want to commit, knowing that, while unlikely, it is possible he isn’t with the Rangers long-term or maybe they just think he is more suited to wear an “A.” There is part of me that wonders if the Rangers are also planning to hold open the “C” for a few more years and wait until Alexis Lafreniere is ready for it. I don’t think the Rangers will give it to him without earning it, both with his play on the ice and in the locker room, but leadership is a big part of his game, he’s been a captain in juniors and for Team Canada and it’s not far-fetched to see him not only with the “C” on his jersey, but wearing it for a long-time. Chris Kreider said yesterday that the “C” might mean more to fans than it does for the players in the room and that “you need a big group of leaders to have any kind of success,” and John Davidson said that it is all about finding “the right guy.” I don’t think it’s right to say that the Rangers don’t have “the right guy,” but maybe situationally they don’t feel they are in the right spot yet for someone to take on that role.