In practice, the New York Rangers were using new line combinations. The first line featured their top three offensive players: Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis. With the injury to Chris Kreider, Stepan and Nash have not had a consistent left winger. Nash is currently playing the left side with St. Louis on the right wing.
Carl Hagelin has had several opportunities with Nash and Stepan, yet St. Louis still needs a jump-start; putting him with the most skilled players on the Rangers may do just that.
St. Louis has just one goal and three assists in 17 games as a member of the Rangers after being acquired at the trade deadline. He has been snake-bitten and needs a boost in confidence to get his game going. His talent is undeniable, yet his performance thus far has been underwhelming.
Originally St. Louis was supposed to reignite when paired with Brad Richards, who he has played with before when both were members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Richards has had an inconsistent season and has not improved his play after reuniting with St. Louis.
Fortunately for the Rangers, the scoring line featuring Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot has stepped up to take the offensive pressure off of Richards. They have been a key to the Rangers’ success while the rest of the team has struggled.
If Alain Vigneault wants results from St. Louis, he should leave the forward on a line with Stepan and Nash for several games. This approach has worked the entire season as he has allowed his lines to mesh and become comfortable. If the team continues to use this philosophy, the Rangers can overcome the loss of Kreider and St. Louis can get out of his slump.