GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It’s hard to think of a hotter start to the NHL season than the one Mika Zibanejad is having.
The Rangers center became the first player since 1995 to record eight or more points in the first two games of the season when he totaled four goals and four assists in a pair of wins for the Rangers last week. Zibanejad capped his big week with a hat trick and an assist against this former team, the Ottawa Senators, on Saturday night and on Monday was named one of the league’s three stars of the week along with Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings and Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs.
When you’re playing like that, you can’t wait to get back on the ice, which is why Rangers fans have to hope that the team's unusual six-day break between their second and third games of the season don't end up being a momentum killer.
“Obviously, you want to keep going. But I try to turn everything into a positive,” Zibanejad said after practice Monday. “We have some time off to work on some stuff like we did today . . . I try to look at it as a positive even though we would rather keep playing. It’s the schedule we can’t do anything about it.”
The Rangers don’t play again until Saturday afternoon when they host the Edmonton Oilers. With so much time off, coach David Quinn is planning to use the week as almost a mini-training camp. On Monday, he held a separate practice sessions with the defensemen going first, followed by the forwards and the goalies.
“It was nice to just do some 'D'-specific stuff,” said defenseman Adam Fox, who grew up in Jericho. “It’s definitely a little weird to have a long break after you get the season going, but you can use the week to try to get better going forward.”
Quinn said one of the good things about having a week off is that you can step back and work on some aspects of the game that you might not have time to attend to when you are playing a game every other day.
“With the time, it’s just an opportunity to work on some positional specific skills that regardless of what system you are working on, you have to do these things within the system to be good,” Quinn said. “Without a question, this week would be a lot longer if we didn’t have the success we had in those two games.”