GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Ideally, David Quinn wouldn’t be making this many changes all at once. But, three games into his tenure as the Rangers’ head coach, there are so many things he still has to find out about his team.
“We’ve only played three games . . . so we’re still trying to figure [things out],’’ Quinn said Wednesday after practice as the Rangers prepared for Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks. “I’m taking some chances on a couple of things, some hunches that I might have — and we have, as a [coaching] staff.’’
One of those hunches is that Pavel Buchnevich, a lefthanded shot who has always played right wing, might just turn out to be really good on the left side. Buchnevich will skate on the left of center Mika Zibanejad, with Jesper Fast playing on the right. Zibanejad’s usual left wing, Chris Kreider, will play with 20-year-old rookie center Brett Howden, whom Quinn called “a heckuva hockey player,’’ and right wing Mats Zuccarello.
Quinn has dressed three different lineups for the Rangers’ first three games, and with the team having lost all three, is set to use a fourth different lineup Thursday against the Sharks. He wouldn’t confirm that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will be sitting out Thursday, but he did reference Shattenkirk’s return from knee surgery last January and said, “If he doesn’t play [Thursday], I don’t look at it as a healthy scratch.’’
The coach also said defenseman Fredrik Claesson — the only player on the active roster who hasn’t played in the first three games — is likely to play. “I want to get him in,’’ the coach said.
And, when asked if defenseman Neal Pionk might be in street clothes Thursday, Quinn said, “That’s possible, yeah.’’
And, based on Wednesday's practice, all four forward lines Thursday will be new, and only one of three defense pairs remains intact from the first three games.
“It’s early,’’ said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who will be returning to the lineup after not playing in Sunday’s 8-5 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. “We’re still trying to find the right combination. You’ve got to be patient. It’s a new system, and a couple new guys [in the lineup]. So the fact that it would work after one or two games . . . I don’t know if that’s realistic. So, you’ve got to be patient. And sometimes, if you lose, you start to overthink it, as a player, maybe. So it’s important that we don’t overreact.’’
Lundqvist, who is 0-2 despite a .933 save percentage and 2.05 goals-against average, said he doesn’t feel pressure to come into the lineup and calm things down after the ragged defensive showing by the team on Sunday.
“I don’t look at it that way,’’ he said. “I feel like I just want to help the team to get a win and feel good that way. I don’t overthink it. It’s just a game; we want to win it.’’