The New York Rangers got some welcome news on Wednesday. Artemi Panarin stepped on the ice for the first time in a couple of weeks after taking time off for personal reasons. Like many around the country, Panarin’s presence should provide a big lift for a team on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
Panarin left the team on February 22 due to a claim made by a former coach in Russia that he had physically assaulted an 18-year-old woman 10 years ago. The Rangers, in a statement that day, “vehemently and unequivocally” denied the allegations, called the story “fabricated” and an “intimidation tactic” for Panarin’s social media outspokenness in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, head coach David Quinn had said that Panarin will not play on Thursday.
“He’s here today, practiced today, will skate again tomorrow. So as far as I’m concerned he’s here and just getting ready to play.” Quinn said Wednesday after practice. “To me, he’s all-in and ready to go to. He’s been off the ice for a while, so we’ve got to get him game-ready.”
Panarin was not made available for comment after practice. He has not publicly addressed the situation since it broke in February.
Quinn also told the media that Panarin has the full support of his teammates.
“These guys are fully in his corner.” Quinn said “They understand the situation. So, the fact that he’s got such a great relationship with all these guys has made all of this a lot easier.”
Even Panarin’s presence should boost the morale of the New York Rangers
No matter when Panarin returns, his presence should give a boost to a team that has struggled in two straight losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Things don’t get any easier with two games against the Bruins coming up.
“It’s great having Bread back,” Ryan Lindgren said after Wednesday’s practice. “You know, he’s such a positive, energetic guy. It was just great seeing him and having him back in the locker room. There are so many different elements he brings off the ice.”
The Rangers need this kind of boost and quickly.
After Tuesday’s loss, the Rangers were seven points out of a playoff spot. The team that currently holds the final playoff spot is the same Boston Bruins that the Blueshirts face in back-to-back games. After that the Flyers come to town for two games, followed by a two-game trip to Washington to face the Capitals. All of these teams are ahead of the Rangers in the standings.
This delivery by the “Breadman”, on and off the ice, could be the boost needed to keep the Rangers in the East Division playoff hunt.