GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Without two of their top nine forwards — and possibly a third — for Tuesday night’s home game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers are “facing a little bit of adversity,” coach Alain Vig neault said Monday.
That’s an honest assessment. After a 13-4 start, the Blueshirts are 2-3-1 in the last six games and the power play has stalled, going 1-for-15.
And J.T. Miller, who has 19 points in 23 games and played 4:30 on the power play in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Senators, didn’t practice Monday. He is questionable for Tuesday night with a stitched-up knee.
“He’s 50-50,” Vigneault said after a practice dominated by special-teams work. Against Ottawa, Miller was struck by Mats Zuc carello’s shot, which “opened up his kneecap,’’ Vig neault said. “He had a few stitches, so he’s dealing with some pain and the stitches opening up.” If Miller, who returned to the game, is out, Oscar Lindberg, a healthy scratch for two games, will dress against Carolina (9-8-4), Vigneault said.
“Our power play had some good looks on the first two but we weren’t able to finish,” he said. “Our execution on the last two wasn’t where it needed to be. We worked on it; it was one of the first days in a while to have more than a 20-, 25-minute practice.”
A successful power play stresses movement to force defenders to shift and quick passes and shots, which the Rangers were doing well before Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula) and Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms) were sidelined. Buchnevich has missed eight games, Zibanejad four.
“Mika on his own can change the way [opponents] play on the PK, because he’s got that shot [from the left circle] and that opens things up,” said defenseman Brady Skjei, deployed at the point. “We have enough skill guys on this team. It’s just not clicking right now, but we got back to basics today. It was good.’’
Without Miller, the two units were Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Zuccarello, Brandon Pirri and Ryan McDonagh, and Kevin Hayes, Rick Nash, Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Klein and Skjei.
“A lot is just execution,” Skjei said, “coming into the zone and getting set up. We’ve got to be better when the puck’s on your stick. Make the play when it’s there and not fumble the puck and turn it over. And generate more shots. We’re not too cute, but we’re on the perimeter a little too much. Just get pucks on the net and try to create some havoc.”
Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist will start Tuesday night. In his last nine home appearances against Carolina, he is 9-0-0 with a 1.09 GAA and a .965 save percentage . . . Jordan Staal, one of Marc’s younger brothers, is out with a concussion . . . The Rangers are 6-0-1 after a loss.