A major problem with the Hartford Wolf Pack this season is that there have been too many passengers and not enough difference makers. Forward Nicklas Jensen has been one of the exceptions. He has eight points in his last eight games, with a decent four-game stint with the Rangers as an injury recall in-between. That point streak includes a hat-trick last night against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to lead the Wolf Pack to a 5-2 win.
Jensen’s first goal came off a rebound from an initial rush chance by Robin Kovacs. Also a smart pass up the ice from defenseman Michael Paliotta.
Jensen got his second after Adam Tambellini helped create a turnover at the opposing blue-line and started the transition. He laid off the puck to Jensen.
He got the hat-trick off of a bit of a scramble in the slot, started by his own zone entry and then a pass from Adam Tambellini with work from Kovacs.
Jensen got some help from sup-optimal goaltending, but the overall takeaway is that Jensen is driving the play forward for Hartford and is generating a lot of offense for a team that has been starved of it for much of the season. In particular, he’s been a catalyst for Kovacs and Tambellini, who are playing what I think is their best hockey of the season.
The shame of it all is that timing is not favoring Jensen here. The Rangers’ depth of wingers makes him a victim of numbers right now, and it’s only going to get worse with Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash making progress towards a return. Had this been last season, Jensen would have been called up and given a lengthy look well before Dan Paille could have ever entered the conversation.
It is still December, though, and things can and will happen. Injuries could make Jensen needed again, as could a trade of a forward. Or perhaps Jensen could be playing his way into becoming trade bait.
Even if none of the above occurs, he’s still a useful commodity. Playing with good players makes other players better. He’s become a key member of the Wolf Pack and is doing his share to get the most out of other young talent the Rangers would like to develop into NHLers.