GREENBURGH — At times over the years, previous Rangers coaches have tried to play Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin on the same line. But the experiment has never lasted long.
Now Peter Laviolette, who has tried myriad different combinations in his first training camp as the Rangers’ coach, wants to see for himself what a line with the team’s two leading scorers last season might look like. He put them together in the third period of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Islanders and kept them together at Monday’s practice, putting youngster Kaapo Kakko on their right side.
“There was a plan to get them [together] earlier in camp . . . and we never got a chance really to see it,’’ Laviolette said after Monday’s two-hour practice. “I didn’t like the way [Saturday’s] game was going. I switched the lines up going into the third period just to give it a different look. And I liked it.’’
Panarin led the Rangers in scoring last season with 92 points and Zibanejad was second with 91. The two play together on the power play, but generally not in five-on-five situations.
For most of his seven seasons with the Rangers, Zibanejad has had Chris Kreider as his left wing, and those two have developed great chemistry. Two years ago, playing mostly with Zibanejad, Kreider scored a career-best 52 goals.
Panarin had great chemistry with center Ryan Strome for three seasons before Strome left as a free agent before last season. Panarin played mostly with Vincent Trocheck last season, but in this training camp, he has played with Filip Chytil — before Chytil was injured last week — as well as Trocheck. Now he’ll get a turn with Zibanejad.
“I just want to look at it and see,’’ Laviolette said. “[And we’re] taking a look at Kaapo up there and see how he would do with that line. I thought it was really good in practice today, so there’s a chance we’ll try that two days from now in a game [against the Devils in Newark] and see how it looks.’’
Zibanejad has talked in the past about playing on a line with Panarin, and always suggested that if coaches were going to put them together, they should give them enough time to try to make it work. But coaches already know that the Zibanejad-Kreider combination works, so they keep coming back to that.
“In terms of a new coaching staff coming in here, they might see something different,’’ Zibanejad said. “I don’t know what the plan is with the lines . . . but whoever I’m on a line with, I’m trying to make it work.’’n Blue notes
Chytil has been out a week with an upper-body injury, but Laviolette said he is skating on his own before practices. “I’m hoping he’s ready’’ for the Oct. 12 season opener, the coach said . . . Alexis Lafreniere, who has been playing right wing all camp, skated at left wing on a line with center Barclay Goodrow and right wing Blake Wheeler. However. Laviolette said it doesn’t mean Lafreniere is being switched back to left wing . . . G Louis Domingue and D Mac Hollowell cleared waivers and were assigned to AHL Hartford.