Former Rangers top line wing Pavel Buchnevich looking to score and beat old team
While Pavel Buchnevich makes his return to New York for the surging St. Louis Blues, the Rangers are focused on avoiding a third straight loss Wednesday night.
That will get much tougher with a charged-up Buchnevich looking to get a modicum of payback for trading him away this summer. He’s likely to face his close friend Igor Shesterkin at Madison Square Garden and would love nothing more than to score and get a win.
“I know Shesterkin, his biggest goal is not to let me score. A bunch of guys, same way. So I try to do my best and score a goal, win the game,” he said after practice at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. “This is important for me.”
Rangers look forward to seeing Pavel Buchnevich
The Rangers traded Buchnevich last July to save some salary cap space before he became a restricted free agent. In return, they got cost-controlled Sammy Blais and a second-round draft pick in a trade wildly unpopular with Rangers fans. Buchnevich was dealt after playing for five seasons in New York and last season scoring a career-best 48 points.
Buchnevich immediately signed a four-year contract with the Blues and has 46 points in his 46 games with St. Louis.
“Playing with him was a lot of fun,” Rangers veteran Mika Zibanejad told reporters at practice Tuesday. “A lot of good memories, a lot of laughs. It’s going to be good to see him.”
The feeling is mutual for Buchnevich, who spent five years with the Blueshirts and has many friends here.
“I’m just happy to come back,” Buchnevich said. “Excited for the game. Big game. Bunch of friends. Excited to play again in MSG. Hopefully we’ll have a great game from both sides — two good teams — and have a fun game.”
Rangers scoring woes have led to consecutive losses
What has not been good for the Rangers is a lack of offense of late. Ryan Strome and Alexis Lafreniere scored third-period goals in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Sunday’s loss followed a 1-0 setback Saturday in Pittsburgh to cap a frustrating weekend when the Rangers totaled 60 shots on goal, went 0-for-5 on the power play and saw 31 shots get blocked.
Since returning from a two-week break, the Rangers are 3-2-1 in six games and have scored two or fewer goals in five of those games. Chris Kreider took eight shots on goal Sunday and has scored once since the break while Artemi Panarin has scored once since the break.
“We’ve got to try to produce more,” Strome said. “I think there’s a bunch of guys that are maybe gripping the stick a bit tight. We’re still in a lot of hockey games and we’re playing good hockey as a team, I think. But obviously to score goals is what we’ve got to do.”
While Blais is out for the season with a torn ACL sustained back in November, Buchnevich is having a career season. His 46 points are tied for second on the team with Vladimir Tarasenko and three behind Jordan Kyrou, who scored during a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Blues on a win streak
The Blues started their four-game trip by extending their winning streak to four games, one behind their season-high five-game run to start the season. St. Louis has scored 19 times during the streak, with Buchnevich tallying three of those goals. He scored the second goal in a three-goal second period Sunday to earn him the team’s postgame “hard hat” from Brayden Schenn, who also dubbed Buchnevich “The Mayor of New York.”
Sunday’s win also gave St. Louis a point in seven straight games (6-0-1) since a 7-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 10. The Blues have scored 31 times in that span and notched at least three goals in nine of their past 12 contests.
“I think that we can keep getting better,” St. Louis left wing David Perron said. “We have a long ways to go. As we get to those tighter games as we’ve been talking about the last couple weeks, I still think we can get better, a lot better.”
The teams are meeting for the first time since Jordan Binnington made 25 saves in a 3-1 Blues win on March 3, 2020. They meet again in St. Louis on March 10.
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–Field Level Media contributed to this report