Rangers and Chris Kreider look to carry offensive prowess against Kings
Nearly two years ago, Chris Kreider was a candidate to be traded before eventually signing a seven-year contract extension.
Now Kreider is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead with 29 goals and he attempts to continue his surge Monday night when the New York Rangers host the Los Angeles Kings.
Chris Kreider leading Rangers’ offense
Kreider agreed to the contract extension on Feb. 24, 2020, on the same day as the NHL’s trade deadline as he was in the midst of scoring 24 goals in 63 games during a truncated season. He scored 20 goals in 50 games last season during a 56-game campaign but is in the midst of a career season two years into the contract.
Kreider pulled into a tie with Ovechkin on Saturday when he sparked a 7-3 win over the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. He scored for the fifth straight game when he notched his fifth career hat trick by getting his first career short-handed goal, his 14th power-play goal of the season and an even strength tally.
“Guys are getting pucks to the net when I’m there,” Kreider said. “There are so many good guys up and down the lineup who can create and manipulate passing lanes, some of the best players in the world.”
He has eight goals during the longest goal scoring streak of his career and his 29 tallies are one more than his previous career-high set in 2016-17 and matched in 2018-19.
“Things have obviously been going great for him this year,” New York defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “But he hasn’t really acted like things have been going great. He’s the same Chris, he knows what he’s good at, what makes him good.”
If Kreider scores again, the Rangers hope it comes in a game that features a quicker start. New York is 8-3-0 in its past 11 contests but the last two wins required comebacks.
On Wednesday, the Rangers faced a two-goal deficit before getting a 6-3 home win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. After arriving home from a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at 3:30 a.m., the Rangers faced a two-goal deficit and was outshot 16-4 in the opening period before erupting in the win over the Coyotes.
New York Rangers injury news
In the euphoria of Chris Kreider’s hat trick and the Blueshirts resounding 7-3 comeback win over the Coyotes, two key young players are injured.
Kaapo Kakko, who took warmups, was a late scratch due to an upper-body injury.
“It’s been going on for a little while,” Gerard Gallant said postgame. “It’s upper-body. Day to day, nothing serious.”
During the Rangers loss to the Hurricanes, cameras caught Kakko wincing in a lot of pain and discomfort at the end of the second period. He could be seen flexing his shoulder and chest area.
Kakko, 20, was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-3 winger is at a crucial point in his development as he’s in his third year. He finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games. This season, he has 14 points in 37 games.
He was replaced in the lineup by Julien Gauthier, who scored in Saturday’s blowout win.
During the game, the Rangers lost Filip Chytil to a lower-body injury after the first period.
“He’s day to day, lower-body,” Gallant noted.
Chytil, 22, was selected by the Rangers in the 2017 NHL Draft in the first round (21st overall). He was a gamble as most rankings had him as a second round pick. Since debuting during the 2017-18 campaign, he’s bounced between center and wing finding difficulty getting comfortable.
Chytil has 11 points in 38 games this season and 82 in 224 career contests. His future still seems better suited as a winger.
If he can’t be ready for the Kings’ game, the Rangers still have Morgan Barron on the taxi squad.
Kings will be a tough opponent
Los Angeles opposed the Rangers the last time Kreider did not score when it outshot them 39-23 in a 3-1 win on Jan. 10. The Kings followed up their win over New York with wins over Seattle and Pittsburgh but dropped three straight games before starting a six-game road trip with a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.
In his return from the health and safety protocol, Carl Grundstrom scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period as the Kings overcame a pair of one-goal deficits. Alex Iafallo and Viktor Arvidsson also scored as Los Angeles produced 37 shots on goal, marking the eighth time in nine games it produced at least 35 shots on goal.
“We came in with a little adversity and played exceptionally well,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said after his team produced 31 of its shots on goal in the final two periods. “We got stung early, on something we expected to happen, so we had to fight through it tonight, it gave us a really good game. I thought, as the night went on, we got better and found a way to win a tight one.”
Los Angeles is 5-1 in the past six meetings and is making its first visit to New York since a 4-1 loss on Feb. 9, 2020.
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–Field Level Media contributed to this report