GREENBURGH, N.Y. — One thing David Quinn has done consistently in his first season as the Rangers’ coach is hold people accountable. The former Boston University coach has benched players for poor play and scratched others for big mistakes as he seeks to teach his young players the right way to play the game.
But you can’t bench everyone for every mistake. Everybody makes them, after all. Sometimes you just have to live with them.
Neal Pionk knows he made a mistake when he picked a fight with Christian Fischer in the second period of Friday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the Garden. The Rangers were leading 3-0 at the time, and Pionk got an extra minor (for unsportsmanlike conduct) for starting the fight. The Coyotes scored on the ensuing power play, the first of their four straight goals that doomed the Rangers.
“Honestly, I thought he ran into Hank,’’ Pionk said Saturday in explaining why he went after Fischer. “But after watching the replay, it wasn’t really him. I mean, he drove the net and I kind of ran into Hank. Obviously, I didn’t have time to watch the replay as the play was going on. It was a split-second decision. I was a little upset. I thought something else happened.’’
Even if Pionk had been right, Quinn said it still wouldn’t have been a smart play to pick a fight at that juncture.
“Probably not,’’ he said. “Probably not in that scenario. And that’s a guy [Pionk] who — you certainly love the fact that he wants to defend a teammate — but you’ve also got to understand the situation and the ramifications of that. It’s a mistake that you accept. And I think it’s a great learning moment for him and for all of us.’’
Pionk, 23, effectively has been the team’s No. 1 defenseman this season, playing on the top pair with Marc Staal and serving as the point man on the first power-play unit. He is the team leader in ice time (22:53 per game) and is fourth in scoring with 17 points and third in assists with 13. Disciplining him to prove a point probably would do more harm than good.
Notes & quotes: Kevin Hayes, who crashed heavily into the boards with 3:23 left in regulation Friday and did not return, “is a little sore,’’ Quinn said. The team recalled center Boo Nieves from Hartford (AHL), probably as insurance in case Hayes can’t play. Quinn, however, thinks he will play Sunday against Vegas . . . Hayes was one of four Rangers who did not practice Saturday. The other three were Mika Zibanejad, Jesper Fast and Matt Beleskey, whom the Rangers described as having “maintenance’’ days . . . Quinn said rookie Lias Andersson, scratched Friday, will be back in the lineup Sunday . . . Defenseman Adam McQuaid, out since Oct. 25 with a lower- body injury, is ready to return, Quinn said.