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Panarin out today, Zib remains sidelined, Kakko taking step forward

January 6, 2021, 4:46 PM ET [62 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers continued training camp today with Artemi Panarin and Libor Hajek sidelined for "procedural situations." They joined Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Richards and Keith Kinkaid on the outside looking in, though Panarin and Hajek are due back on ice tomorrow. New York did not have a full scrimmage today, but will have a game-like one at 7pm on Thursday, though as of now, that scrimmage won't be aired.

With Panarin not practicing, coach David Quinn shuffled the trios again, as Phil Di Guiseppe moved up to Panarin's line with Kaapo Kakko, who scored twice in the practice and is being counted on to take a major step forward in his sophomore year in the pros. Brett Howden got his chance in the spotlight on the top line with Morgan Barron sliding to left wing on the fourth line, centered by Kevin Rooney. K'Andre Miller was paired with Brendan Smith, as the top two groupings remained the same

Rick Carpinello had a few interesting quotes from David Quinn re: Kakko and his line:

“I like the progression,” Quinn said when asked his impressions of that threesome after two days – two sessions of drills and a pair of fruitless, ragged scrimmages in which a total of four goals were scored (by Jack Johnson, Phil Di Giuseppe, Anthony Bitetto and Kreider). “I think they’re making strides and creating some offense. (Kakko) has just got to learn to play off those two guys. If he does that, continues to go in that direction, that line can be a very effective line for us. He understands the role he’s going to have to play on that line with those two players. That being said, we have also talked with both Bread and Strome about the chemistry on that line and what it’s going to take to have success. It’s not just one guy. It’s all three of those guys understanding what their roles are on that line and what they’re going to have to do to have success.”

“Regardless of who’s playing with them – and right now it’s Kakko and he and I have talked about what he needs to do – but we need it from everybody. We need more of an in-your-face, staying on top of people, defensive conscientious approach to have success. It can’t just be one guy on a line, and I don’t think those guys will have to sacrifice offense to do that. … I’m certainly anticipating that’s how they’re going to approach it.”

Defensively is the key. Panarin was better last year than we expected. Strome leaves a lot to be desired on that end of the ice. Fast was the defensive ballast, covering up the mistakes made by either. That safety net is now gone, so each player will need to be better than they were last year, in some cases, substantially better. If that happens, then the line has a shot to be successful, not just offensively, which we expect, but overall, where their net of goals scored compared to allowed will remain in the plus side of the ledger, hopefully by a wide margin. If not, modifications will have to be made and on the fly in this shortened season.

Separately, what is your concern level with Zib? When does that level get ratcheted up? If he doesn't practice by the weekend, then I think a healthy level of concern has to exist that he will miss the start of the season. If that occurs, the depth at center - which was a focus of the offseason - will be under the spotlight again. Have to figure Howden gets the first chance at filling the role on an interim basis, since putting Barron there would be an extremely rough indoctrination to the NHL. The hope, though, is that what Zib is dealing with is nothing major and he will be on the ice in the near-term.

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