The pros and cons of the Rangers’ five-day break in game action may cancel each other out, but in reality, it’s just the hand the club was dealt whether it likes it or not.
On one hand, the time off is welcomed after a string of injuries to key players befell the Blueshirts.
It’s given the team some time to heal, including Adam Fox (long-term injured reserve) and Filip Chytil (injured reserve), as well as given Ryan Lindgren and Igor Shesterkin ample time to recover.
On the other hand, the injuries have not affected the Rangers’ ability to win games, so the break is only disrupting the roll the team is currently on.
The Rangers haven’t lost in regulation for nearly a month.
They’re riding a 10-game point streak and are sitting in first place in the Metropolitan Division, as well as tied for third in points in the NHL.
Injuries or not, this is not the time for the Rangers to get cold.
“A little bit [frustrating],” K’Andre Miller said of the break after practice on Wednesday. “I found the last couple days, I’m a little bit bored. A little bit bored around the house. It’s always good, obviously, to have the break and kind of reset your body, regroup and recover and do what you need to do away from the rink.”
All signs indicated that Lindgren and Shesterkin will be available when the Rangers’ schedule resumes Saturday night against the Devils.
It’ll be the first time Shesterkin sees game action in over two weeks, over which the Russian netminder has been working through a nagging issue. Lindgren will not have missed a single game after getting crunched into the boards and knocked out in the third period Sunday against the Blue Jackets.
To get their No. 1 goalie and a top-four defenseman back in the lineup before arguably the biggest game of the season, the Rangers would likely take any schedule to ensure that happens.
“It’s never easy during a little break like this, sometimes you can come back your next game and flop or do whatever,” Miller said. “I think just staying sharp through this time and making sure we’re still getting better each and every day we’re here.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette noted that he’s been able to focus on aspects of the Rangers game that he may not have been able to during a regular schedule.
Though a major emphasis for this stretch has naturally been rest and recovery, which Laviolette prioritized by making Monday’s practice optional.
The Rangers practiced a lot of three-on-three, four-on-four and extra-attacker situations, especially since the team has gone to overtime or a shootout in four of its last seven games.
They’ve only lost one of those four shootouts, the 5-4 loss to Minnesota, but now is the time to get extra reps in.
Aside from the situational practice, the Rangers have also honed in on drills that foster clean zone exits and offensive-zone play in general.
It’s rare to have this much practice time, but Laviolette said he wanted to take advantage of it.
Even if it comes at the expense of the Rangers’ current streak, this break has to be good for something.