Last night, in Winnipeg, the Rangers showed that, despite being injury-laden, when a team plays a run and gun style against them, New York still competes very well. The 2-1 win against the Jets, where the Blueshirts scored on two power plays, was a clinic in how not to try to combat the Rangers’ speed. It is well known that few teams in the league can match New York’s skating ability, and if most try to match the Rangers speed for speed, it will result in two points for the Blueshirts. And that is true, even when almost half of the Rangers’ top six forwards are out of the lineup.
The Rangers cannot expect the same result tonight in Chicago, where they will play a team somewhat depleted due to injuries (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Cory Crawford will be out for the game), because the Blackhawks play a different game than Winnipeg. Tonight will be more of a test for New York, which will be in the second night of a back-to-back, against a very competitive first place in the Western Conference team. It will be a very difficult test, to say the least.
On the positive side last night was another indication that the line of Michael Grabner, JT Miller and Kevin Hayes can be very effective. Although they did not score at even strength against Winnipeg, they showed very good chemistry throughout the night, as they found each other time and again on the ice. It was a line that was dynamic earlier in the season and was inexplicably split up. That should not happen again, even as other forwards come in and out of the lineup. I understand that the talent should be spread out over three lines, but when you have a line that works, it seems to me that you should ride it until it does not. Hopefully, the coaching staff agrees and we will see more of this line now and as the season progresses.
As for the recent callups, Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen, both played last night, but only one was impressive in any way. It was Jensen’s first NHL game as a Rangers’ property, and he was only on the ice for a total of 8:31 minutes, but he was in front of the net on the PP when Hayes scored the game winner. His presence seemed to bother Jets netminder Michael Hutchinson just enough to affect what he saw, which allowed for Hayes to score.
Hrivik is another story. It was his second game since his call-up last week; and yes, he had three hits in 14:22 of ice time last night. But in the short time he has been with the Rangers, Hrivik has made several errors that created chances the other way (including one that led to an Islanders goal in Brooklyn on Tuesday night). Truth be told, Hrivik plays a different role in New York than he did in Hartford, where he was a successful top six forward. But even accounting for a (short) period of adjustment, Hrivik has not played well. My thought is he has one more chance and, if there is no improvement, he is on a bus (or train) back to Hartford.
As far as waivers go, neither Jensen nor Hrivik need to go through waivers to be sent back down to Hartford, as long as it is done rather quickly. Both of their situations are controlled by Article 13.2 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA. Very simply, because both Jensen and Hrivik were waived in the 12-day period prior to the start of the regular season and then cleared waivers, they do not have to go through waivers again if “the [p]layer has not played in ten (10) or more NHL Games cumulative since [those waivers] were last cleared, and more than thirty (30) days cumulative on an roster have not passed since [w]aivers on him were last cleared.”
The rule is applied to each player individually. Therefore, each of Jensen and Hrivik will not be exposed to waivers, as long as that player stays on the NHL roster for a total of 30 days or less plus he has played in nine or fewer games. So, either Hrivik or Jensen or both can be reassigned to Hartford now or several times, as long as they stay under the game and time on roster limits. And FYI, they can be recalled an unlimited number of times, because the current CBA no longer include a provision for re-entry waivers.