The big news out of practice the last few days is that Mats Zuccarello has been skating with the team. Out for five weeks with a broken wrist, Zuccarello has pretty much been an afterthought when it comes to the Rangers in the playoffs. But now with Brian Boyle easing back into the game after suffering a concussion, and Brandon Dubinsky out with a lower body injury, the need for some offensive infusion has become apparent.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Zuccarello is the answer to magically save the Rangers. I’m just saying that with Dubi out, and John Mitchell struggling a bit, Zuccarello might provide some spark to the lineup. Carl Hagelin has also been struggling mightily offensively, so have a few other key players that are in there to get the Rangers offense going.
With Zuccarello appearing more likely to play sooner than Dubinsky, and Mitchell more likely thatn Ruslan Fedotenko to be sitting if Zuccarello plays, the question then becomes where Zuccarello fits in the lineup. Zuccarello may not fit in with the top-nine at even strength, but will he find some powerplay time?
In the hypothetical world that is predicting lines and powerplay units, one would have to assume that the first unit would be sticking together. They’ve generated chances and goals by moving the puck around. They could use some more shots on net, but the unit as a whole has been doing some nice things with the man advantage.
That said, the second powerplay unit is where Zuccarello, who is likely to fit in as a powerplay specialist for the time being, would likely be placed. He would bring some much needed skill and hands to the unit that is comprised mainly of “grinders.” Inserting Zuccarello on the off wing on that unit certainly bring a new dynamic –and hopefully opposition attention– to the second powerplay group.
To answer the post’s question, it is safe to assume that Zuccarello will dress at some point during the postseason. But he is certainly not to be counted on as either a savior or a permanent addition to the lineup. In all likelihood, Zuccarello will play fourth line minutes at even strength. Most of that time will likely be with Artem Anisimov and Mike Rupp. Torts seems set on his top nine.