After the New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings, Mats Zuccarello was looking like a legitimate top six forward; he was forechecking hard and making good decisions with the puck. Well, what a difference a couple of weeks can make.
Zuccarello was demoted to the Rangers’ fourth line during their practice on Tuesday. There is an outside chance that he is a healthy scratch for the Rangers’ upcoming game against the Philadelphia Flyers. It has really spiraled out of control quickly for Zuccarello, as he has been taken off the power play and has been steadily playing worse with each game that has passed. It is a really bad time for him to be playing so badly, because the Rangers are so banged up at forward right now. Zuccarello was one of the guys who needed to pick up his game with Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin out, not play worse.
With the Rangers recalling Chris Kreider and Brandon Mashinter, you have to wonder how much time Zuccarello has left to impress the team and gain more minutes. Alain Vingeault‘s patience appears to be running thin with him. Zuccarello needs to get back to the style of play that made him successful down the stretch last season; he needs to use his great hands and creativity to create more scoring opportunities. In the defensive zone, he has to be more aware of the players without the puck. Too many times Zuccarello has been on the ice and has left a man wide open while puck watching.
If Zuccarello doesn’t pick up his game quickly, we might be seeing the last of him with the Rangers. There are a bunch of hungry kids in the AHL, chomping at the bits to take his spot on this team.