‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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Carl Hagelin does not keep a red cape concealed in his locker stall. Nor is he more powerful than a locomotive. He cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound.
What Hagelin does possess is lightning speed that is comparable to a speeding bullet. When Hagelin is on the ice, he’s capable of making defenders feel uncomfortable by using his athleticism, instinctual puck pursuit and feisty nature.
“He’s a big-time forechecker for us,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He’s quick and speedy. We’ll see what happens with the lineup, but it would be exciting to see him.”
The Rangers have lacked a consistent danger factor while Hagelin, Rick Nash and captain Ryan Callahan have been missing from the lineup. That was clear for all to see in Monday night’s home opener as the ordinary Blueshirts were shut out, 2-0, by the resolute Montreal Canadiens.
“We just weren’t able to connect and make enough happen by their net to get one by them — whether it be traffic, crashing the net, things like that,” alternate captain Marc Staal said. “We need to find a way to get a couple in. You can’t win a game without scoring any goals.”
There is a tremendous drop-off when the Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Brad Richards top line isn’t on the ice. McDonagh was impressed by what he’s been seeing from Kreider in particular.
“I liked what I saw,” McDonagh said. “He’s definitely learning to use his speed and his size. He chased that one guy down. If he stepped in front there, that’s a good look. We need him to continue to do that and utilize his shot even more. I think he can utilize his big shot. He’s working hard on trying to be smart in both areas, so it’s good to see.”
The Rangers have scored a league-worst 15 goals through 10 games. Hagelin’s probable return ahead of Tuesday night’s rivalry game with the Islanders would be a welcome sight for the Blueshirts. The 25-year-old winger is eligible to come off the long-term injured reserve on Tuesday.
Hagelin skated at Tuesday’s optional skate at Nassau Coliseum. His likely fit would be on the second line, taking Benoit Pouliot’s spot on the left wing to be centered by Derick Brassard with J.T. Miller on his opposite wing.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault did not confirm that Hagelin will return on Tuesday night in Long Island. He is expected to be a game-time decision.
“I need to talk to our medical staff,” Vigneault said following Monday’s defeat. “I’ve gotten some updates on how he feels. We’ll talk to them tonight and make a decision tomorrow.”
Yet, the demotion of Jesper Fast to Hartford of the AHL has paved the way for Hagelin’s insertion into the struggling Blueshirts’ lineup.
“He brings a speed dimension obviously,” Vigneault said. “A guy that can help us create turnovers and probably — most definitely — spend a lot more time in the other team’s end. He’s been a big part of this team, and if he does play tomorrow I’m sure he will be ready.”
While center Brian Boyle is encouraged by Hagelin’s potential return, he understands that every man in the Rangers’ lineup must play their part.
“We’ll be happy for him, he’s been battling for months,” Boyle said. “We’ve got confidence in Carl. We need to self-assess. Each guy, we want to provide the spark ourselves. We need to start having that attitude.”
While Hagelin’s inevitable Tuesday return will give the Rangers a significant lift, it’s clear that every man inside the locker room must accept their share of burden for the Blueshirt’s underwhelming 3-7-0 start.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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