GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Sometimes, it’s good to shake things up.
No, the kind of shaking going on Tuesday at the Rangers’ end of the practice facility they share with the Knicks was hardly seismic, as it was for the Knicks, who removed Steve Mills from his position as team president. All the Rangers did was toy with the idea of mixing up some of their lines in an attempt to give a little boost to their offense.
“We’ve just got to get more offense, five-on-five,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said. “If you look at our last stretch here, over six or seven games, we just haven’t been productive offensively, five-on-five. We’ve really relied on the power play.’’
The Rangers’ power play went 3-for-3 and accounted for all their goals in Monday night’s 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, and the only goal in Saturday night’s 1-0 win over the Red Wings in Detroit, came on the power play, as did the final goal of their 4-2 win over Detroit at home Friday night. That means the last five goals they’ve scored have come on the power play. And seven of their last 10 goals overall have come with the man advantage, including both goals in their 4-2 loss to the Islanders Jan. 21 in the last game before the All-Star break.
So, in an attempt to try something different, Quinn appears ready to break up his long-running second line of center Ryan Strome between Artemi Panarin and Jesper Fast. Those three have been together for 13 of the past 14 games (Panarin sat out the loss to the Islanders with an upper body injury) but at practice Tuesday, as the Rangers prepped for Wednesday night’s visit by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Strome wore a blue jersey while Panarin and Fast were in white.
“That’s definitely on the table,’’ Quinn said when asked if he was considering splitting up Strome and Panarin, who have played together for most of the season.
Filip Chytil, who had been centering the third line, between Kaapo Kakko and Brett Howden, centered for Panarin and Fast at Tuesday’s practice. The lines, though, were affected by the absence of first-line center Mika Zibanejad, who sat out with the flu, and fourth-line center Greg McKegg, who was held out of practice for what the Rangers called “maintenance.’’ Also, Chris Kreider, who missed Monday night’s game with an upper body injury, practiced, but his status for Wednesday night’s game remains uncertain.
Kakko, the 18-year-old rookie, had a strong game Monday and earned a promotion late in the game to the first line, and Quinn said it’s possible Kakko could play on the first line Wednesday night.
“Yeah. We’ve talked about that as well,’’ the coach said. “I think he’s doing a better job offensively. Defensively, I think he still has to improve in that area, but from an offensive perspective, he’s definitely been more of a threat.’’
Notes: Quinn said Igor Shesterkin will start in goal against the Maple Leafs. Alexandar Georgiev, who has yet to play since the Rangers returned from the All-Star break, may play Friday night, though Quinn said that is not definite… D Adam Fox also missed practice because of “maintenance,’’ and Quinn said he has no reason to believe Fox won’t play Wednesday night.