The New York Rangers are continuing their daily practices as preseason inches closer to its conclusion this Thursday night. Many line combinations are being tested as head coach Peter Laviolette attempts to finalize the roster ahead of opening night.
This afternoon, the Rangers spent extensive time working on their special teams. The Blueshirts’ power play has gone scoreless through four preseason games so far, indicating that it needed some adjustments.
With a full special teams practice underway, some insight has been given on what the units will look like this upcoming season.
Rangers’ first PP unit looks familiar
Per Vince Mercogliano, the Rangers are currently practicing with a first power play unit consisting of Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider. This is the same combination that the Rangers utilized at the start of the 2022-23 season, a group that found success early on.
Trocheck is the Rangers’ best center in terms of face-off win percentage, so keeping him on the top unit is a major plus. Zibanejad has continued to remain on the left side where he awaits his classic one-timer attempts, another piece that has been successful in the past.
As a whole, this looks like it has the potential to be one of the most productive power-play units in the NHL. Although it is just practice right now, there’s a high chance that Laviolette will use this combination in the regular season as well.
The only fear is that the Rangers are using too many of their best players on the top unit, leaving not as much star power on the second. Luckily, GM Chris Drury spent the 2023 offseason acquiring depth players, hopefully building enough talent for the second unit to succeed.
The kids are paired with veterans on the second PP unit
The Rangers’ second power play unit seen in practice consists of Erik Gustafsson, K’Andre Miller, Kaapo Kakko, Blake Wheeler, and Alexis Lafreniere. This is a nice combination of both youth and veteran status, which will hopefully find success on the ice.
During practice today, Lafreniere scored a nice rebound goal while the PP2 was receiving ice time. Although Lafreniere has yet to find the scoresheet during this year’s preseason matchups, it’s great to see him working hard and finding success during training.
What’s interesting about this second Rangers unit is a lack of centers. Both Lafreniere and Wheeler seem to be taking face-offs depending on which side of the ice the players are on, but neither of them are natural centers. It can be assumed that Filip Chytil would replace either Gustafsson or Miller once he returns from injury, but only time will tell what decision Laviolette decides to make.
Although this second unit isn’t as star-studded as the first, there’s still an abundance of talent here. Both Kakko and Lafreniere are on the verge of a breakout, and Wheeler has managed to remain an elite winger despite his age.
Miller is also a great offensive defenseman who has deserved time on the power play for years. He’ll hopefully be the full-time power play replacement for Jacob Trouba, who was questionable on special teams under Gerard Gallant.