After the Rangers wrapped up practice on Sunday at MSG Training Center, there was Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck lingering out on the ice.
The three forwards were putting in some extra power-play work in wake of their unit going 1-for-22 in the last seven games. Zibanejad was the last to score for the first unit, back on Jan. 3 against the Hurricanes. The Rangers came up empty in three opportunities with the man-advantage against the Bruins on Thursday, totaling just four shots on goal, so the trio’s initiative to dedicate more practice time to improving that area is notable.
Gerard Gallant reaffirmed his belief in PP1 on Saturday and kept the aforementioned trio together with Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin in practice on Sunday.
“I’m happy with it; not happy with the production lately, but I’m happy with the personnel,” the Rangers head coach said.
Considering the fact that the Rangers’ top-five points leaders are packed into the club’s first unit, operating at 21.6 percent while ranked 16th in the NHL is underwhelming. Gallant is a coach who empowers his players, however, so the doubling down on the personnel choices is on brand.
With no changes to the group, the goal now appears to be adding new layers to what they already have with the man-advantage. In practice on Sunday, Panarin and Zibanejad rotated which faceoff circle they’d post up in. Opponents have gotten used to seeing Zibanejad in the left circle for his deadly one-timer. It could be as simple as not doing what they usually do in order to throw teams off.
“It’s just a different look,” Trocheck told The Post after practice. “It’s just something new to kind of give teams a different look whenever we’re out there and make them kind of interchangeable — which they are. Mika can play on that side, Bread can take one-timers and it’s kind of opens up space over there.”
Trocheck, who is the newcomer on the first unit as Ryan Strome’s replacement, said the first unit just needs to simplify its approach. Putting more pucks on net, executing more effectively and keeping a pulse on what other members of the unit are doing could be key to sparking them offensively.
The fact that the five members of PP1 have been playing together all season, Trocheck said, makes working out the kinks a bit easier.
“It could take literally anything, something as simple as a dirty goal,” he said. “Something off someone’s shin pads and bouncing up over the goalie’s head. It’s just something that needs to go in the net. That’s why I think if we simplify it a little bit more and start getting more pucks to the net, eventually one is going to go in.”
Jonny Brodzinski cleared waivers and was subsequently assigned to AHL Hartford on Sunday. He skated in the previous five games, posting six shots on goal.