New York Rangers center Jonny Brodzinski celebrates his goal against Chicago...

New York Rangers center Jonny Brodzinski celebrates his goal against Chicago on Feb. 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Erin Hooley

When a team is struggling to put wins together, as the Rangers were in January, its flaws are obvious. And as they were going 5-7-2 during that period, it seemed pretty clear that the team’s No. 1 need — especially in the wake of the announcement that Filip Chytil was done for the season — was a point-producing center for the third line.

But now that they have halted their slide and turned things around since the NHL All-Star break, maybe that need that had seemed so obvious isn't quite so dire for the Blueshirts, who had won all of their games since the break — and five in a row overall — before Thursday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Montreal Canadiens. And one of the less talked about factors in their recent success has been the contributions from their bottom two lines.

Specifically, the third line of rookie left wing Will Cuylle, center Jonny Brodzinski and right wing Kaapo Kakko has been a boon for the Rangers, having produced the game-winning goal by Cuylle in Monday’s 2-0 victory over Calgary, and six goals and six assists in six games since being put together.

“Every time we're out there, we're just trying to do something positive,’’ Cuylle said after Thursday’s optional morning skate at the Garden. “And it's great that we can be able to contribute, especially as a bottom-six line, [and] just add some depth scoring in the lineup.’’

Leading the way for the line is Brodzinski, who had three goals and two assists over the last five games. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but with three weeks to go before the March 8 trade deadline, the question for Rangers GM Chris Drury would be whether Brodzinski, if he can keep it going, could turn out to be an in-house solution to the third-line center problem.

That would seem like a stretch at this point, but who knows? The market for trade-rental centers is thin, and Drury may have to seriously overpay to get someone like the Anaheim Ducks’ Adam Henrique. If Brodzinski and his linemates continue to make an impact, maybe it would be worth it for Drury to consider taking a chance on them.

Brodzinski, 30, who is in his ninth professional season, started the season in AHL Hartford, and came up after Kakko suffered a left knee injury in late November. He had four goals and 10 assists in 34 games before Thursday, but since taking over as the third-line center 11 games ago, he’s been 3-3-6 with a plus-5 rating.

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On Thursday, Brodzinski played his 35th game of the season at the NHL level, which tied his previous career high, set in 2017-18 with the Los Angeles Kings, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft.

Peter Laviolette, who’s coached nearly 1,500 NHL games, was asked Thursday if it is unusual for players like Brodzinski, who have spent so many years in the minor leagues, to become established NHL players so late in their careers.

“I would say that doesn't happen often,’’ he said.

It does happen on occasion, though, and Laviolette brought up the name of Harry Zolnierczyk, who was mostly a minor leaguer before playing 24 games for Nashville under Laviolette in 2016-17 and 11 playoff games as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final that spring.

“It's not that common, but Jonny's played really well,’’ Laviolette said. “He's using his assets to make the most of his time here, his skating and versatility, his speed. He's played well defensively. His line is creating on a consistent basis right now. So they've been really good. He's been good.’’

Has he been good enough to convince the Rangers they don’t need to make a trade to replace him? He has three weeks to make a closing argument for himself.

Notes & quotes: The Rangers recalled forward Alex Belzile late Wednesday night from AHL Hartford, but he was a healthy scratch Thursday, along with D Zac Jones. “He got recalled because he's had a really good year in Hartford,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said of Belzile. “He's played well. I haven't gotten to see him much. But I did get the reports on him that he's played well and so he's here.’’ Belzile, 32, played for the Montreal organization for four seasons after signing with the Canadiens as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He signed with the Rangers as a free agent last summer . . . Jonathan Quick got the start in net Thursday, which means Igor Shesterkin will likely start Sunday afternoon against the Islanders at MetLife Stadium . . . The Rangers signed Hartford defenseman Brandon Scanlin to a two-year contract extension, the team announced.

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