The New York Rangers play against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday in Ottawa, and against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at the Bell Centre. Vlad Namestnikov and Mats Zuccarello will not be making the trip, and their future availability is unknown at this point.
#NYR Updates: Namestnikov is in concussion protocol, neither he nor Zuccarello will travel on the upcoming trip.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) November 28, 2018
Namestnikov was steamrolled by Thomas Chabot in an open ice hit toward the end of Monday’s victory over the Senators.
He struggled to return to the bench, and was visibly woozy.
Namestnikov went to the dressing room with seconds left in the game, and after the game David Quinn didn’t think things weren’t too serious.
Here is the update from Rangers coach David Quinn on Vladislav Namestnikov, who was clearly shaken up by a hit from Sens D Thomas Chabot in the third period: "When I left the locker room he was talking, so that's progress."— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) November 27, 2018
Quinn updated the media on Namestnikov’s condition after practice, and said the team will discuss potential AHL call ups on the plane. He also confirmed that Zuccarello would miss the next two games. For all we know Namestnikov could be cleared and return on Sunday vs. the Winnipeg Jets, but that remains unknown at this point.
Zuccarello remaining out of the lineup is not a huge surprise, and his condition is something the Rangers should be concerned about. The Rangers’ winger tweaked his groin earlier this month, presumably November 6 vs. the Montreal Canadiens when he skated just 14:53, and was scratched vs. the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks. He made his return to the lineup on November 15 vs. the New York Islanders, and skated 17:22 in the loss.
He then sat the next three games before returning again vs. the Philadelphia Flyers on November 23, and he skated just 15:29 in the shutout loss.
Zuccarello’s unavailability on Thursday and Saturday means he will have played just three games in a 13-game period. Given this trend, it will be interesting if he’s held out again on Sunday vs. the Jets, and possibly retroactively placed on IR.
In terms of call ups, the Rangers have a number of options. Vinni Lettieri is someone the team could easily bring back, as Quinn already knows what he has in him. They could also promote AHL journeyman Cole Schneider who plays left wing. Last season he tallied 50 points in 76 games, and thus far his stat line of 6-9-15 through 22 games played is second among forwards in scoring. He has just six games of NHL experience, last appearing with the Buffalo Sabres during the 2016-17 season.
An intriguing choice would see the Rangers promote right winger Ville Meskanen. The 23 year old scored 24 goals and added 20 helpers for 44 in 48 games last year in the Liiga, and this year has five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 22 games played as an AHL rookie.
He is a skilled player, and giving him a chance to show what he is capable of would be nice, and would break from the recent trend of promotion players to just fill a bottom-six role.
If the Rangers were to experiment, they could try out Lias Andersson on the left wing temporarily on the top line, and then call up Peter Holland or Boo Nieves to back fill as the fourth line center. Matt Beleskey is another name of interest, but he likely wouldn’t be the team’s first choice.
The long story short is that the team has a number of options in Hartford, and who they promote ultimately will coincide with how long the team expects to be without Namestnikov and Zuccarello.
Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.