The Rangers have not scored enough this season, and it won’t help if Artemi Panarin is going to miss any time.
Panarin has five goals and 10 assists, which means he has scored or assisted on nearly half of the Rangers’ 31 goals (in 12 games). There’s a big dropoff after that; the team’s next-leading scorers are Pavel Buchnevich (eight points) and Adam Fox (seven).
So the fact that Panarin clearly was suffering from some discomfort that severely limited his ice time in the third period of Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins is quite concerning.
Panarin missed the last shift of the second period and seemed labored in his skating in the one early shift he played in the third. When the Rangers got a power play with 6:58 left in regulation, he went on the ice for the first 1:27 of the man advantage, playing in the high slot and not moving around much. He played 15:34 in the game, including 2:26 in the third period.
"He’s got a little bit of a lower-body injury,’’ coach David Quinn said. "We thought that he could get out there on the power play. It was something we just decided to try. If it wasn’t going to work, we were going to pull him off early, but I thought that was our best power play we’ve had in a while.’’
The Rangers did not practice Thursday, so it is unknown whether Panarin will be available for Friday’s home game against the Bruins.
Entering play Thursday, the Rangers ranked 25th out of 31 teams in goals per game (2.58). Their numbers certainly have been affected by the struggles of No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad, who has one goal and two assists in 12 games.
Zibanejad, who had 41 goals in 57 games last season, did have several prime scoring chances Wednesday and was foiled by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. But Zibanejad and Quinn both were encouraged by the 27-year-old Swede’s performance.
"I felt like my own self today,’’ Zibanejad said. "It’s tough with the loss, but I felt a lot better today and obviously the chances were there, but I couldn’t really capitalize on them."
"Tonight for sure was the guy that we saw last year, in a lot of ways,’’ Quinn said. "He did a great job defensively, I thought he was on the puck, I thought they were great scoring chances. He wanted it, he had a swagger to him tonight. By far the best game he’s had all year.’’
If Panarin can’t go Friday, the Rangers will need Zibanejad to be even better than that.
Chytil on COVID list. Forward Filip Chytil, who remains out with an upper-body injury, was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.