Kreider's return fails to spark Rangers
NEW YORK — Chris Kreider rejoined the New York Rangers, but his return did not have the desired effect.
Kreider, in his first game since fracturing his left hand, had two shot attempts and committed a high-sticking infraction in the Rangers' 4-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 4 of the second-round series is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers trail the best-of-seven 3-1, and their season could end as early as Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
Kreider skated with his regular linemates, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. The addition of Kreider to the lineup meant Alain Vigneault could drop right wing Martin St. Louis to the second line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
Despite the personnel machinations, Marc-Andre Fleury had to make only 15 saves.
“We didn't give them much of a test,” Richards said.
In his first full season with the Rangers after playing 23 games in 2012-13, Kreider recorded 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 66 games. Kreider's six power-play goals were second-most on the Rangers, and his 12 power-play points ranked fifth.
For a man-advantage unit that has been ineffective, Kreider's presence were expected to be a benefit. New York entered the game 3 for 42 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and 0 for its last 34.
“It's easy to see we need to finish,” Vigneault said of the power play after New York's morning skate. “We've got to get it done.”
Kreider's injury occurred in New York's 3-1 win over Columbus on March 21, and he underwent surgery March 28. Only recently did Kreider begin skating and stick-handling while wearing the yellow, non-contact jersey. Wednesday was the first day he participated in drills with his teammates.
“Obviously you want to be in this time of year,” Kreider said after the skate. “(You) play the entire regular season so you can make the playoffs, to be in the playoffs. It's not easy, but obviously we have an incredible squad, and they've done an extremely good job to this point (and will) continue to do a very good job.
“I think once I'm fully cleared, I'll be fully cleared. So it's not something I'm going to think about or worry about.”
Kreider had spent the majority of the season on New York's top line and had been a front-of-the-net presence on the power play.
New York selected Kreider with the 19th pick in the 2009 draft. The 6-foot-3, 226-pounder made his NHL debut in Game 3 of the Rangers-Senators 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series after Hagelin was suspended three games. He went on to record five goals and two assists in 18 playoff games as the Rangers advanced to the conference finals.
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.