GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Even as he had three goals and four assists in the first four games of the season and played with the assertiveness and jam of a consummate power forward, Chris Kreider didn’t want to talk about himself.
After Monday’s practice, with his return imminent after missing four games with neck spasms, Kreider noted the team’s success in his absence and quipped: “I’m going to try to come in and not screw that up.”
True, the Rangers did go 3-1 without Kreider, but can only be a deeper squad with the left wing in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
Kreider, 25, was reluctant to talk about what triggered the spasms, except to note when the issue arose, which was not during his 16:23 on ice in the 4-2 defeat of the Capitals in Washington on Oct. 22 — the only game of his first five that he didn’t have a point. It was the next morning, before the Blueshirts prepped for a visit from the Coyotes.
“Just kind of came on suddenly. If I knew what it was, I could tell you how [it happened],” he said after practicing with center Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. “I probably would have been in the lineup a couple days earlier except for the way the schedule was constructed, with no practices . . . It’s very encouraging to see how well the team’s doing, clicking on different levels. I’m excited to play hockey again.”
Zibanejad, who had two goals and four assists with Kreider in the lineup, but just two assists in the last four games, could very well benefit with Kreider back.
“It’s been working out for him and myself as far as chemistry goes,” Zibanejad said. “When you’ve played however many exhibition games we played together and the beginning of the season, you’re hoping for that chemistry to come back.”
As for his chemistry with Zuccarello (2-1 in the last five games), Zibanejad said: “It’s coming along, we’re making plays, creating chances. As a team, we’ve been showing that we can score. Adding a guy like Chris with his size and speed and the way he plays, you’re hoping it can’t be anything else but good.”