GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The Rangers are hoping that some of their most dynamic players will be able to help them both extend a two-game win streak and break a seven-game losing streak against the Islanders on Thursday night.
Wednesday’s practice saw the return of Mats Zuccarello, who missed the last three games with a groin strain, and the ascension of Filip Chytil, who was rewarded for his strong performance against the Canucks on Monday with a promotion to the first line. Chytil, who had been playing center on the fourth line, moved to the left wing and skated alongside Mika Zibanejad.
“The way he’s played, I think he’s earned this opportunity,” coach David Quinn said of Chytil, who scored his first goal of the season Monday and nearly missed two more in the 2-1 victory. “I’m anxious to see him build on what’s happened the last few games. It’s the ebbs and flows of a 19-year-old in the National Hockey League. The confidence kind of comes and goes and I think he’s been building toward this over the last few games.”
The Rangers have certainly impressed thus far, but a trip to Barclays Center should be a real test for a team that has never been able to win there (they’re 0-5-1).
“It’s an important game,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “[They’re] a team that’s right there with us in the division and points are on the line . . . Just go out and enjoy it and play hard. I think, so far, obviously, the record doesn’t lie. They’ve been better than us at the Barclays Center so we’ve got to do what we can to turn that around. They always come out hard and play with confidence and we’ll match that.”
As for Zuccarello, he was a full participant in practice and Quinn said he looked no worse for wear.
“He had a lot of energy, a lot of jump, so that’s certainly going to help us, any time we have a chance to get him back in the lineup,” he said. “He means so much to our team, not only from an on-the-ice perspective, but from a personality standpoint. It’s good to have him back for sure.”
Zibanejad concurred, though he did point to the need to get on the same page. Zuccarello has been gone for two games, and Zibanejad hasn’t had all that many shifts with Chytil, though he, too, saw a boost in confidence after Chytil’s goal Monday.
“In the few shifts we had, it’s been good,” Zibanejad said. “We’ve just got to stay on him and keep having him play that way. I like him. Obviously, it’s going to be different for him to play the wing than center. We’ll see how it goes, but I really like the way he played last game . . . [Right after he scored], right away [you saw confidence in how] he carries the puck, how he skates, how he protects it.”
Notes & quotes: Backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made a one-day trip to Hartford to play in a game for the Wolf Pack against the Islanders’ Bridgeport farm team. Georgiev was assigned to Hartford in the morning to play in the game, which started at 11 a.m. Goalie Marek Mazanec was called up from Hartford to practice with the Rangers. Georgiev made 26 saves in the Wolf Pack’s 4-3 overtime victory and was immediately recalled to the Rangers, with Mazanec going back to Hartford.