Rangers confident Mika Zibanejad will heat up soon

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad is coming off two-straight 70-plus point seasons, so the fact he hasn’t hit the ground running to open this year’s condensed schedule has been more glaring than it might have been under normal circumstances.

For full context, Zibanejad missed a good portion of training camp after contracting COVID-19 and was still expected to compete at full capacity despite not having any preseason games to get back into the swing of things.

“One of the things that has happened with Mika, he has certainly raised the bar to a level of elite,” Rangers coach David Quinn said following practice Friday. “[He’s] one of the elite players in this league, so obviously we all watch him, that’s what we compare him to. With the start he has had, with having COVID and really not being able to do an awful lot before the season started, he certainly hasn’t gotten off to start that I know that he wants to, statistically or what we want him to.

“But he still has done good things, and sooner or later, the points will start coming and he’s going to be the elite player that we all have seen for a while. Not just that stretch last year, but I thought even two years ago he was creeping toward elite status, and that’s kind of what’s happened.”

Mika Zibanejad battles for control of the puck during the Rangers' win over the Capitals.
Mika Zibanejad battles for control of the puck during the Rangers’ win over the Capitals.

The 27-year-old Swede has one point (an assist) in the past seven games and three points (one goal, two assists) through the Rangers’ first 10. He has consistently skated on the top line, but as a result of injuries and Quinn’s attempt to integrate new faces into the lineup, it hasn’t always been with his usual partners — Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich — though the trio has been reunited as of late.

Zibanejad has said he doesn’t feel any lingering effects from his bout with coronavirus, but it’s evident that he hasn’t quite settled into the season just yet.

“I think he’s raised the bar, the expectations, not only here in New York, but I think in the hockey world,” Quinn said. “The expectations are high because of the bar he has set over the last two years and, you know, we have no doubt he’s gonna end up ultimately reaching that level here sometime soon.”

After turning down the Penguins for their vacant general manger position, Chris Drury was promoted from assistant general manager to the Rangers’ associate GM on Friday morning.

Drury, who was a top candidate for the job in Pittsburgh, reportedly cited not wanting to leave New York or uproot his family at this moment when turning down the Penguins, according to TSN. Drury also is believed to have received a raise in salary to go with his Rangers promotion.

“In his role, Drury will continue to assist Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton on all player transactions and contract negotiations, and he is also responsible for all hockey-related matters for the Wolf Pack,” the Rangers’ release said.

Drury, who played the final four seasons of his 13-year NHL career with the Rangers, is in his sixth season with the Blueshirts in a front office role. He served as the team’s Director of Player Development for the 2015-16 season and was subsequently promoted to assistant general manager. Drury, a Hobey Baker Award winner with Boston University, has also served as the general manager of the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, since May 2017.

The Rangers were slated to play the Devils on Saturday at Prudential Center, but the game was postponed due to New Jersey’s COVID-19 outbreak. The Rangers will have the weekend off from game action before returning to play the Islanders on Monday night.

source: nypost.com