Chris Kreider’s injury causing depth issuesApril 7, 2014, by
When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury last month, the Rangers needed to scramble to find options to fill his spot in the top-nine (AV uses his top-nine for scoring, and his fourth line for defense). After all, the Rangers were losing one of their fastest skaters, one of their more potent offensive weapons, and a guy who was likely to put up his first 20-goal, 40-point season while playing alongside Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. These aren’t easy shoes to fill.
J.T. Miller was immediately recalled and slotted into the lineup, but his play without the puck left a lot to be desired. After a game and a half, he was scratched for two games then sent back to Hartford with a message. Miller likely won’t be back until the Wolf Pack season ends (as a healthy scratch/injury replacement). Dan Carcillo has been filling in for Kreider admirably, but he’s no top-nine forward.
Naturally, this is a problem for the Rangers as they head into a first round date with the Flyers.
It’s not a matter of “switching up the lines” either. One of the replacements must come from the Carcillo, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, and Derek Dorsett quartet that comprise the fourth line. Why is that?
AV is not going to switch up his best offensive line of Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello*, or at least he really would prefer not to have to break them up. That means that the “stray” part of the fourth-line-du-jour needs to slot in with the top-six, however they are constructed.
*-Raise your hand if you thought that sentence would be spoken at the beginning of the year. Is your hand up? Good, because you’re a liar.
Since Miller is not an option, we’ve heard suggestions about Ryan Haggerty. There’s some merit there, but I don’t think throwing the kid into the fire like that in the middle of a playoff race is going to be good for him. Remember, he’s not Kreider, a first round pick that the Rangers needed to have for the playoff run. He’s an undrafted free agent who the Rangers needed to sign for the 2013-2014 season in order to sign him. That’s a big difference.
Haggerty may turn out to be a great signing. But playing him right now would be silly. Why not wait until after the Rangers clinch, when the games are relatively meaningless? It will give the coaching staff a chance to see what he can do, and it will let the kid get his beak wet.
Until Kreider’s hand heals, the Rangers are going to have a problem filling his hole in the lineup. They’ve been surviving on strong defense/goaltending and balanced scoring (note: shorthanded scoring), but that will only last so long. Without someone stepping up to fill that hole, the Rangers have a pretty big problem in their scoring lines.