AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury in March, the immediate effect wasn’t apparent. The Rangers kept winning, and the hole in the lineup, specifically on the second line, wasn’t exposed. That’s to be expected when you consider the relatively easy March/April schedule for the Rangers, but with the playoffs looming, the club had a real problem on their hands. They didn’t have the depth to replace a top-six forward.
The hole was something that New York struggled to fix. Jesper Fast proved to be effective in a defensive role, but lacked the offensive punch (for now) to be a mainstay in the lineup. J.T. Miller had the exact opposite problem, as his play without the puck was too erratic to counter his aggressive play. Dan Carcillo was certainly effective, but he has always been more of a wild card than a reliable offensive force. Call him the new Sean Avery, circa 2011. None of these three had the ability to fill the hole Kreider left, and it showed.
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Returning tonight. Sweet.
With the news of Chris Kreider’s imminent return to the Rangers line-up (likely tonight), it’s fair to say the sooner the talented winger is back in the line-up the better the Rangers chances are to overcome the Penguins. The fact that a rookie – who has had a solid yet unspectacular first full season with the Rangers – is almost seen as a saviour for the offense can be seen as an indirect criticism of most if not all of the Rangers big name offensive players up front, most notably Rick Nash.
How Chris Kreider fares in this year’s playoffs and the start of next season will have a direct impact on the future of Rick Nash. Many Rangers fans have already begun to jump off the Nash bandwagon amid his distinct lack of playoff production. If Kreider could come back and become the consistent scorer everyone thinks he could be it could spell danger for Nash’s Rangers future.
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Per the team’s Twitter, Chris Kreider is at the morning skate, and is not wearing a non-contact jersey. All signs point to the winger returning to the lineup tonight, and at a very critical time for the Rangers.
Alain Vigneault has noted that Kreider is medically cleared to play, but is unsure if he will dress tonight.
In case you forgot, Chris Kreider has had success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before
Though coach Alain Vigneault wouldn’t say it outright, it sure sounds like winger Chris Kreider is getting very close to returning to the Rangers’ lineup.
Kreider has missed the team’s last 19 games with an undisclosed left hand injury and would be a major addition to New York’s suddenly offensively-starved lineup.
Vigneault has been married to his unofficial top line – Benoit Pouliot/Derick Brassard/Mats Zuccarello – and his outstanding fourth line – Brian Boyle/Dominic Moore/Derek Dorsett – for most of the second half, but he’s had a devil of a time finding the right combination with Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Even when Kreider was healthy, chemistry wasn’t automatic, but at least Vigneault had a complete set of top-six forwards (in theory) to choose from. It’s a lot easier to mix and match that way then when a fourth liner like Danny Carcillo is being asked to skate with key offensive players.
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Per Steve Zipay, injured winger Chris Kreider will likely miss the first round of the playoffs, but should be ready for the second round should the Rangers advance:
Chris Kreider (surgery on left hand March 28) is progressing and the 17-goal scorer should be ready if the Rangers advance to the second round.
This means that the Rangers will need to dress Jesper Fast (or Dan Carcillo) for the entirety of the first round.
Per Andrew Gross, both Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider were skating today at the Rangers optional skate. Neither did intensive work, with McDonagh doing some light skating and Kreider gripping his stick with one hand, but it’s a good sign to see them skating. Alain Vigneault did not give a timetable for either’s return, but did mention he is unsure if he wants McDonagh to return before the playoffs. Naturally, Kreider needs to grip a stick with two hands before he returns.
There’s no need to rush either guy. There’s a week before the playoffs start, let them get that extra week.
Kreider is only of several draftees from the US system (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When you look at the current Rangers roster, there are plenty of examples how the Rangers have successfully looked to the American hockey program and how the franchise has a preference for American trained players. Whether it be the drafting of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller or Carl Hagelin, the free agent signing of Cam Talbot or the now infamous acquisition of Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers have had significant success with their recent focus on US trained players.
It goes beyond the current roster. The Rangers system currently boasts several players who have either come through the US development program or the NCAA system. Whether it be Conor Allen, Ryan Bourque or Danny Kristo already at the pro level, or prospects such as ‘Boo’ Nieves, Steve Fogarty and Brady Skjei still in college, the Rangers have continued to look toward the US system for success.
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Per Sean Hartnett, injured winger Chris Kreider had surgery on his hand and will be out indefinitely. Kreider was not on the road trip with the team, and will be out for at least the remainder of the regular season. Kreider’s 37 points (6th on the team) and 17 goals (3rd) leave a big hole in the lineup that will need to be filled by the snake-bitten Martin St. Louis, among others. With Kreider’s injury, it is unlikely that J.T. Miller will be returned to Hartford at all this season.
Per Pat Leonard, defenseman Justin Falk is not on this trip, as his wife is having a baby. Falk hasn’t played since December 29th, and has played just 20 games this season.
One last note: Martin Straka officially retired yesterday. In three seasons with the Rangers, Straka put up a line of 65-122-187 in 224 games.
Sorry this is late folks. Per Bob McKenzie, Chris Kreider has a hand injury and will be out around a month. Kreider missed all of the third period and overtime against Phoenix on Monday night with the injury.
The timing of the injury couldn’t come at worse time, as the Rangers are gearing up for a playoff run. This won’t affect their ability to make the playoffs, but it will affect their ability to score once the playoffs start.
Frank Franklin II, AP Photo
When the Rangers traded away Ryan Callahan, they traded away a major part of their core to be able to acquire an injection of elite skill in veteran Martin St Louis. It also indicated a change in emphasis on the roster – have the Rangers truly embraces a win-now mode? Barring an unexpected turn of events, Brad Richards will be joining Callahan as an ex-Ranger after this season, and more may follow – think Derick Brassard, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore et al. Major roster turnover may be around the corner, as Dave mentioned this morning.
With the absence of first round draft picks, the Rangers can’t be expected to land any can’t miss prospects through the draft for the foreseeable future. This subsequently cranks up the pressure on the current youth in the organisation. Enter Chris Kreider.
While the Rangers undoubtedly live and die by Henrik Lundqvist’s form and the scoring ability of St. Louis and Rick Nash, Kreider is the closest thing the franchise has to a sure-fire elite offensive weapon in the long-term. With Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Lundqvist anchoring the team defensively, the team should be in enough games to be competitive. But where do the goals come from?
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