CALGARY, Alberta — Chris Kreider wasn’t in the mood to talk about his ejection from Wednesday’s game in Vancouver following his five-minute major penalty for elbowing the Canucks’ Elias Pettersson on Wednesday, nor did he want to talk about the $5,000 fine the NHL hit him with for the incident.
“No comment,’’ the Rangers’ alternate captain said at the morning skate prior to Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames. “It’s a game day. We’re moving on. What happened, happened. It was unfortunate.’’
Kreider wasn’t in much of a mood to talk about anything, really. The 27-year-old left wing is just not happy these days with all the losing the Rangers have been doing. Entering Friday’s game, halfway through their four-game tour of Western Canada and Minnesota, the Rangers were 0-1-1 on the trip, 28-29-13 on the season, and 2-4-5 in their previous 11 games, with their only victories in that stretch coming against the lowly and banged-up Devils.
“We’ve got to find ways to win games,’’ Kreider said. “We’re finding ways to lose games right now. We’ve got to do things to help us win.’’
It hasn’t been helping that Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, the team’s top two scorers, have been struggling of late. Entering Friday, Kreider had gone goalless in eight consecutive games, picking up just two assists in that stretch; Zibanejad was goalless in seven straight, with three assists, though he did have an assist on the only goal in the 4-1 loss at Vancouver on Wednesday.
“If you don’t score and you win, that’s another thing, but when you don’t score, and you’re supposed to be productive . . . and we don’t win, then you feel like you could do a little bit more,’’ Zibanejad said. “We’re just trying to get a win… If we can score, probably it helps.’’
Things had gotten so bad that in the 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit March 7, coach David Quinn split up Kreider and Zibanejad. Kreider was benched for a while, and then dropped to the fourth line. He started the next game on the fourth line and moved back up to the second line, where he played Monday in Edmonton, on the first game of the current four-game trip. But Quinn had reunited Kreider and Zibanejad against Vancouver, and put Jesper Fast on the line, hoping to stir things up again. And things seemed to be going in the right direction right up until Kreider got tossed.
“It was short, but good,’’ Zibanejad said of the time he spent reunited with Kreider. “He was skating. Even just having ‘Quickie’ (Fast) on that line — we played well together before — even the end of last year and this year a little bit. I felt good … with them, and we created some chances in the first right away, and had some momentum.
“We felt like it was going to be a good night for us and then Kreids didn’t want to play anymore,’’ Zibanejad joked. “So … it was unfortunate.’’
With the playoffs no longer something to shoot for, there are still individual goals. Zibanejad, who led the Rangers with 27 goals and a career-high 66 points, would reach a new career high with his next goal. Kreider, who had 26 goals and 49 points, has career highs of 28 goals and 53 points, so those are well within reach.
But Kreider, who has never been one to talk about individual goals, still won’t.
“I want to win hockey games,’’ he said. “As a group, you’ve got to fall in love with winning, fall in love with details that allow you to win hockey games. Because losing sucks.’’