Is this Rangers forward the key to fixing the first line?

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) skates against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Madison Square Garden
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have seemingly returned to form following a few weeks of rough play that caused a handful of disappointing losses. There wasn’t much that was going right at the time, but a few key players have stepped up their game to put the Blueshirts back on track.

Mika Zibanejad was one player who started the season off slow. It’s a typical trend from the star center, beginning the year with a slow start and then heating up as the season progresses, but it’s good to see that Zibanejad is already starting to heat up halfway through December.

Zibanejad has been on an offensive tear as of late

Heading into tonight’s matchup against Toronto, Zibanejad is currently riding a four-game scoring streak in which he’s scored a total of six points. He’s also managed to record a point in 12 of his last 13 games, with his lone scoreless matchup coming from the Rangers’ shutout loss to Washington.

Zibanejad currently has 26 points in 29 games played, which is pretty incredible considering he went mostly scoreless for the beginning portion of the season. Ever since he began to heat up, the veteran center has been scoring at an incredible rate and has become indispensable to the success of the Rangers’ offense.

Zibanejad is the key to solving the Rangers’ first-line issues

So far this season, the Rangers’ first line has been the most inconsistent of the offensive corps. Chris Kreider has been hit or miss depending on the night, and the Blueshirts have yet to find a suitable player to act as a long-term right winger for the line.

If Zibanejad remains hot, these problems could fade away with ease. Kaapo Kakko is regarded as a failed experiment on the first line, but he was playing with an ice-cold Zibanejad and Kreider before his injury. The Rangers should strongly consider giving the kid another shot in the top six when he returns as long as Zibanejad is continuing his elite play.

A strong offensive showing is needed against Toronto

It will take a strong effort this evening in order for the Rangers to secure a victory over the Maple Leafs. Toronto has an overwhelmingly talented offensive corps, and although the Blueshirts are a solid defensive team, the Leafs will undoubtedly find their way to the back of the net at least one time.

As the first-line center and a key member of the power play, Zibanejad’s continuous success is imperative tonight. The offensive begins with him, and as long as he continues to produce at the same rate he has been recently, the Rangers should have the chance to outscore Toronto and bring home the win.

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