When the New York Rangers brought Kris Newbury up from the Connecticut Whale following the season ending injury to Alex Frolov expectations were he would fill a role and then go back down when injured players began to return. Here you had a 28-year-old player who had seen limited stints in the NHL with Toronto and Detroit, but never latched on as a full-time player.
“(Newbury) has had a pretty good year down there (Hartford),” Rangers coach John Tortorella told the Rangers media after practice. “He had a good camp with us, he’s dropped some weight, which we asked him to do, so we’re going to give him an opportunity.”
That opportunity would not come as expected because the team traded Michal Rozsival for Wojtek Wolski, which left Newbury on the outside looking in as a healthy scratch.
“He got screwed,” Tortorella said of Newbury when he was forced to watch the initial game follow his recall.
Newbury would remain a healthy scratch for two games, but then he would get his chance in the lineup against Montreal. Once Newbury got that opportunity he has shown that while reckless at times he has the ability to fill two roles that the Rangers desperately need help with right now; faceoffs and fighting. From his first shifts in Montreal and throughout all four games to this point Newbury has shown he can be a great fit for the system and those two roles. With each shift he looks to hit, is good on the forecheck, has some passing skill and is certainly not afraid to mix it up.
In four games Newbury has had three scraps in which he won two of them. The wins and losses in the fights are not as important as the fact it can take some pressure off Brandon Prust to be the team fighter and let him have his injured shoulder heal as much as possible.
Beyond the fighting the Rangers are currently 28th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at an embarrassing 45.9% as a team. Newbury, on the other hand, in his limited attempts is winning 69% of his draws (20/29) and 75% in his last three games (18/24).
Following last night’s game Tortorella showered praise on fellow rookie Chad Kolarik and Newbury for their play emphatically stating, “They’re going to stay in the lineup.”
If Newbury continues to show the value he has shown in these four games throughout this battle through injuries, then he will make a case to stick around once the injured heal up.