DENVER – Things can change quickly in the NHL. When Jonny Brodzinski got sent down to Hartford at the end of training camp, he didn’t expect to be back this quickly. But then, Dryden Hunt was claimed on waivers by Colorado and Ryan Reaves got traded to Minnesota. And suddenly, Brodzinski was the next man up.
When Filip Chytil suffered an ankle injury last Friday against Ottawa, the Rangers called up Brodzinski the next day to be the extra forward for Saturday’s game against Chicago. They assigned him back to Hartford Sunday, but when they realized Chytil would likely need to sit out another game, they recalled Brodzinski Monday and put him in the lineup against St. Louis.
Now, Brodzinski has played the last two games as the fourth-line center. And on Thursday, the Rangers put Ryan Carpenter on waivers, meaning that for now, Brodzinski is the permanent fourth-line center.
“I just hope that I put my best foot forward these past couple of games and kind of control what I can do, and try and help this team as much as I can, which, I definitely think that I can,’’ Brodzinski said Thursday after the Rangers practiced at Ball Arena. “I’m just creating some speed, some energy for that fourth line. And ... contributing when we can. But I think that we can be a really good line that can create some problems.’’
Brodzinski, 29, made an impression on Rangers coach Gerard Gallant when he was called up several times last season to fill in for players who missed time with injuries or COVID-19. Brodzinski, who had been the captain for Hartford, played 22 games for the Rangers last season, scoring one goal with one assist. But Gallant loved what he did on the forecheck, and after the season was over, the Rangers signed Brodzinski to a two-year contract. When they sent him down at the very end of the preseason, Brodzinski said it was with the instructions to “just go down there and be a leader.’’
“They know the character I have and type of player that I am, so I was just trying to help the younger guys become better players and help them become a New York Ranger,’’ he said.
At Hartford, Brodzinski played on a line with rookie pro Will Cuylle and, while he was there at the start of the season, Julien Gauthier. Brodzinski and Gauthier learned each other well, which has helped Brodzinski fit seamlessly on the fourth line, where he’s playing with Gauthier and Sammy Blais.
“You'd see a couple of times (in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Vegas), I was just, like, laying pucks into areas for (Gauthier),’’ he said. “He's got so much speed that sometimes that's all you really have to do. You don't have to hit him on the tape. Just throw it into an area and let him go get it.’’
Gallant was asked what he’s seen from Brodzinski in the two games he’s played since his recall.
“Just playing solid hockey, just like he did last year when we called him up,’’ Gallant said. “That line was really good, I thought, (Wednesday) night, and even the game before, they played more minutes and they're getting the trust of the coaches. So we feel good when they're out on the ice. They did a real lot of good things in the offensive zone -- they cycle pucks down low (and) not many turnovers.’’