Rangers Mika Zibanejad Set for Return Against Anaheim Ducks
Zibanejad, an integral piece to the Rangers offense, is set to return tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. He has 22 points in 24 games this season, 11 goals and 11 assists. As number one center for the Blueshirts, Zibanejad’s absence took a toll on the Rangers offense. However, the Rangers offense didn’t collapse without the Swede. Players like Jesper Fast, Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller greatly stepped up their efforts, filling in the gaps. Zuccarello, in particular, tallied nine points in the 10 games during Zibanejad’s absence.
A Dose of Reality
While the Rangers can be happy about the Swedish center returning, his health needs to remain a top concern. The amount of pressure placed on Zibanejad this season is immense. Without Derek Stepan, the Rangers placed Zibanejad at the eye of the storm for the team’s success. With the announcement of his concussion, shockwaves rang throughout Rangerstown. It’s also important to note that this was not Zibanejad’s first concussion, it was his fifth. One with Sweden, one with the Binghamton Senators, two with the Ottawa Senators and now one with the Rangers.
This concussion history should be reviewed with caution considering the increasing value he holds for the Rangers franchise. Much like Sidney Crosby, Zibanejad is a player whose desire for the game will push him to his limits. It’s up to the Rangers staff to police how far Zibanejad realistically should push. His monetary value for the team should not constitute sacrificing his health, especially with increasing cases of CTE coming to light. In a recent article in the New York Post, Zibanejad admits he told himself he was feeling worse than he let himself believe. That drive to play, while admirable, can be detrimental to a player’s longevity in the NHL. For the Rangers, one thing is for sure, they need Zibanejad around for the long haul.
Picking Up the Pieces
With Zibanejad’s health top of mind, he can safely resume what’s been an extremely successful season for him so far. His face-off percentage is over 50 percent and he’s only 15 points shy of his season total for 2016-17. His chemistry with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich also bringing out the best in their play. According to Matt Calamia, the KZB line will reunite, sending David Desharnais to the fourth line and Boo Nieves to the bench.
Nieves hasn’t played spectacularly since his first game with the Blueshirts, though he holds his own as a bottom six center option. He’s won 71 face-offs this season at a 44.7 percent average. Nieves also holds an impressive GF% of 81.82 with nine goals for and only two against. The young gun has time to progress but for now, it’s time to welcome back the big guns into the line-up.
Mika Zibanejad celebrates scoring a goal in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Getty Images Sport)