GREENBURGH, N.Y. — To be fair, the Rangers’ power play hasn’t had many opportunities to operate during the last few weeks. That said, the Blueshirts haven’t been very productive with the extra man of late.
“We’re not getting a ton of chances, but at the same time, when we do get our chances, we’ve got to be ready and capitalize on those opportunities,’’ point man Neal Pionk said. “Sometimes that’s the difference in the game is the special teams. If we get one or two power plays, we’ve got to score on one of them.’’
The Rangers have scored one power-play goal in 15 chances in the last eight games, including 0-for-4 in their last three. It doesn’t help that they lost point man Kevin Shattenkirk on Monday against Tampa Bay with a separated left shoulder. He’ll be out two to four weeks, the team said.
The Rangers’ power play will, however, get help in the form of forwards Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich, who are expected to return for Friday’s game against Arizona after recovering from a strained groin and a broken thumb, respectively. Both players figured prominently on the power play in Thursday’s practice. Zuccarello worked on the first unit with Pionk, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. Buchnevich worked on the second unit with Tony DeAngelo, Brett Howden, Filip Chytil and Jimmy Vesey.
Coach David Quinn said Zuccarello and Buchnevich will help improve the power play because both are “good hockey minds’’ who play fast and pass the puck well. But he cautioned not to expect them to be ultra- sharp in their first game back from injury.
“We’re going to have to be patient, they’ve both been out for a while, so I think everybody has to temper their expectations of what these two are going to be able to do for us [Friday] night,’’ Quinn said. “But what they do is they give us a pace to [the power play]; they have intelligence, they move pucks. And I think, overall, when the dust settles and they get acclimated back to where they’re comfortable after a long layoff, I think our power play will certainly benefit from having them both back.’’
The two returnees will do more than just play on the power play, of course, and Quinn said he hopes with everyone healthy, the team will build some consistency.
“I would love to have some continuity and go with the same lineup and the same lines for an extended period of time,’’ he said. “That would certainly help all of us.’’
If that happens, based on Thursday’s line combinations, it appears rookie Lias Andersson will be the 13th forward and the odd man out of the lineup. If Andersson, 20, isn’t playing every game, Quinn was asked if he will stay with the Rangers or go back to Hartford (AHL), where he started the season.
“Right now,’’ Quinn said, “he’s staying here.’’