Rangers down on luck with Panarin injury amidst hopeful Zibanejad outbreak

Artemi Panarin
Artemi Panarin
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. For the New York Rangers, they’re neither, right now.

The Blueshirts have lost seven of their last 10 games and are flirting with the bottom of the East Division standings after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Mika Zibanejad — the Rangers’ 41-goal scorer from last season — had been all but invisible over an eight-game streak that saw him record just a single point.

He didn’t get on the scoresheet Wednesday night, which now has his season totals up to 12 games with one goal and two assists, but there was at least the kind of menace to his game that made him one of the more dangerous playmakers in the game last year.

The center put four shots on Tuukka Rask’s goal, including one breakaway, but all were turned away more in part because the Bruins’ goalie stood on his head for a majority of the night — of course, other than the mad dash to the bench with a minute left in regulation of a tie game. Rask went on to say that he believed the score was 2-1 Rangers rather than the 2-2 scoreline that sent things to overtime.

“I felt like my own self… I felt a lot better today,” Zibanejad said. “The chances were there, but I couldn’t capitalize on them. But I have to just keep on going and keep getting a little bit better every game.”

His head coach, David Quinn, agreed.

“Tonight, for sure was the guy that we saw last year in a lot of ways,” he said. “I thought he was on the puck. I thought they were great scoring chances. He wanted it. He had a swagger to him tonight and by far, the best game he had all year. I think he feels pretty good right now.”

That kind of Zibanejad is going to be needed now more than ever after star winger Artemi Panarin — an MVP finalist last season — was limited in the third period of Wednesday night’s game after suffering a lower-body injury.

The 29-year-old has kept the Rangers afloat while waiting for Zibanejad to get going, recording five goals and 10 assists in 12 games this season.

If he is forced to miss any considerable time — especially when Zibanejad is starting to feel like himself — the Rangers are in that much more trouble in the sprint that is the 56-game season.

They face the Bruins once again on Friday night and are next scheduled to play again Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils after Sunday’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers — who are dealing with COVID issues — was postponed.

It remains to be seen if Tuesday’s game against the Devils will be a go considering the rivals from across the Hudson have been dealing with a COVID outbreak in their ranks since the end of January.

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