‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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After being shut out in consecutive games by Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins, the Rangers are in desperate need of a spark to ignite their slumping offense.
Ahead of Game 4 at Madison Square Garden, that spark could come in the form of a healthy Chris Kreider. The 6-foot-3 winger skated in a red, full-contact jersey at Wednesday’s morning practice.
Kreider shot the puck with full force, skated and stick-handled without any sign of discomfort.
“I was able to lean into it today,” Kreider said of his shooting.
After practice, Kreider said he was feeling “good.” He did not confirm whether he was cleared to play Wednesday night.
“I’ll take it day by day from here. Hopefully, it keeps on getting better,” Kreider said.
Predictably, head coach Alain Vigneault did not confirm whether he is ready to throw Kreider back into lineup.
Vigneault did say that Kreider is “medically cleared to play” and is “day-to-day at this stage.”
The 23-year-old winger missed the final nine regular season games and first 10 games of the playoffs due to left hand surgery. He last played on March 24. Given the on-ice evidence at practice, it appears that he’s fully healthy.
Vigneault described Game 4 as one the Rangers simply have to have, considering that a loss will send the Blueshirts back to Pittsburgh down 3-1.
“Tonight’s game for us is as close to a must-game in my estimation,” Vigneault said.
If Kreider gives the thumb’s up, Vigneault doesn’t have much choice here. The Rangers need all their horses for a game of this magnitude.
As of late Wednesday morning, coach had yet to talk to player.
“Today was his first time on the ice with his teammates. I’m just telling you that he’s day-to-day at this stage,” Vigneault said.
When he’s on, Kreider uses his natural strength, large frame and quickness to score goals around the crease and win battles in the corners, and he’s proven to be dangerous in the offensive end from most any angle.
Should Kreider return to the lineup, the Rangers are hoping he will jump-start a power play that hasn’t scored in its last 34 attempts. Kreider had six power play goals and 17 total goals in 66 regular season games prior to his injury.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey
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