The New York Rangers are trailing in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they did receive some good news on Wednesday. Forward Chris Kreider was medically cleared to play and could return to action as soon as Game 4 in New York.
There’s no telling if coach Alain Vigneault will insert Kreider into his Game 4 lineup, but if Kreider’s ready to go, Vigneault should play him. Kreider suffered a fractured hand on Mar. 24 against the Phoenix Coyotes, and it’s caused him to miss 19 games between the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
Kreider can make a big difference for the Rangers in multiple ways if he returns. In 66 games played this season, Kreider’s scored 17 goals and added 20 assists. For most of that time he played on the Rangers’ top line alongside Derek Stephan and Rick Nash.
If it wasn’t for his injury, Kreider may have been a finalist for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL‘s rookie of the year. Kreider can help the Rangers in a bunch of different ways. He has great speed and also an especially quick first step, which gives him tremendous acceleration. The Rangers need all the speed they can get, considering that players must be feeling fatigued at this point in the year, and Kreider would provide fresh legs.
He also has a big body that allows him to win pucks on the boards, and that’s something New York needs to do better in the latter stages of their series with Pittsburgh. Winning loose pucks will be vital to New York’s success, because the Penguins are the type of team that you must keep the puck away from. Puck possession as always will be key for the Rangers, and Kreider’s speed will help that strategy.
The Rangers have struggled to score the last few games, and Kreider certainly adds offense to the team. He’s got a very quick wrist shot which couples dangerously with his speed. Kreider got very hot at times during the regular season, and he’ll need to hit the ground running in the playoffs.
While we don’t know when he will return, one thing’s for sure; Kreider must be anxious to get back in the lineup, and the Rangers hope he can return as soon as Game 4 or 5.