On Monday, the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers' AHL affiliate, has sent defenseman Brendon Nash to the organization's ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Road Warriors. Now this may seem like no big deal to Ranger fans, but the real news is in who just made their way up to the AHL level because of this move.
The Wolf Pack have recalled forwards Andrew Rowe and Michael St. Croix from the Road Warriors. Rowe was the leading scorer for the Road Warriors with four points - three of them being goals. St. Croix had four points as well - three of them being assists. The St. Croix call up is especially intriguing since 5'11", 183 pound right winger is considering one of the better prospects in the Rangers organization.
While in the Western Hockey League last season, St. Croix had a strong campaign with 37 goals and 55 assists with the Edmonton Oil Kings. St. Croix was in the top 10 for goals, assists, and points in the WHL. The year before, his 45 goals and 60 assists helped the Oil Kings on their way to the league championship. It will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old adapts to playing in the AHL. St. Croix was a fourth round draft choice for the Rangers back in the 2011 Entry Draft.
These moves were prompted by the Rangers' recent call ups of J.T. Miller, Chris Krieder, and Brandon Mashinter, which were necessary because of the injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and Carl Hagelin. Although, Hagelin has been cleared for contact in the last few days, he won't be eligible to come off of injured reserve until next week.
In the meantime, head coach Alain Vigneault is giving a couple of the Rangers' top prospects a real chance at top roles with this team. During the Rangers' practice on Monday, Krieder skated on the top line with Derek Stepan centering and Brad Richards on the right wing. “He went to Hartford, worked real hard and played some good minutes for them, and hopefully he can come and do the same thing for us,” says Vigneault. "Right now, with players we have out, that is what we need from Chris Kreider."
A recent article by Leslie Treff of HockeysFuture.com says Krieder has all the tools to be a top six forward in the NHL, but that the challenge for him has been putting it together. But, Treff also says Krieder seems to be "bigger, stronger, more confident, and using his speed better."
Miller joined the second line on the right wing with Benoit Pouliot on the left and Derick Brassard centering. Brian Boyle centered Taylor Pyatt and the struggling Mats Zuccarello on the third line, while Dominic Moore centered the fourth line with Derek Dorsett on the right wing. Jesper Fast and Mashinter were being cycled as the left wing on the fourth line. "Big, powerful, and with good skating skills, Miller is not afraid to go to the net or to bang along the boards. He is NHL-ready this season and should be an early call-up to New York," says Treff.
Another newsworthy note from Monday's practice was the reappearance of defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who missed the last two games with the flu. He was paired with John Moore, while Ryan McDonagh practiced with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal paired up with Anton Stralman. Justin Falk skated as the extra defenseman.
Some good news in the progress of Carl Hagelin as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery. He participated in Monday's practice with a contact jersey on and he says the shoulder has responded well.
Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist was given a maintenance day - in other words - a day off from practice. "(Henrik Lundqvist) is one of our top players, definitely a leader and a force on this team, and he's battling right now," says Vigneault. "He's been the best goaltender in the NHL for quite some time, and I would say it's a safe bet to say he'll find his groove.”
Also, based on a tweet from the NY Daily News' Pat Leonard, there is still no update on the condition of Rick Nash, who has not played since the third game of the season, when he took a high hit from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. The blueliner was suspended for three games because of the hit.
The Rangers have already had a lot to adapt to this season with a new coaching staff. For example, Lundqvist has clearly had issues with the smaller goal pads that netminders have been ordered to wear across the league, especially given how deep Lundqvist plays the net. Against Washington last Wednesday, Lundqvist was more aggressive in covering angles and made a point of skating a little further out in covering shots. Against the Devils this past Saturday night, that wasn't consistently the case. Also, the injuries have both exposed the Rangers' lack of offensive depth among its NHL veterans and also their inconsistent play - such as in the case of players like Pyatt, Pouliot, and Zuccarello. “ Consistency is such a big thing in this league and it kind of has alluded us thus far. It's about time we get the job done,” says defenseman John Moore.
The Blueshirts play the 1-7 Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, which should in theory, give the team a good chance to get on track before facing the Red Wings on Saturday.