Though the return of Mika Zibanejad, who joined his Rangers teammates at practice Tuesday while clad in non-contact duds, is hardly imminent, coach David Quinn already has one idea about what he’s going to do with the lineup when No. 93 is able to suit up for a game.
That is, the coach is not going to move Ryan Strome out of the middle, where he has been ensconced between wingers Artemi Panarin and Jesper Fast since Zibanejad went down against the Bruins on Oct. 27. Strome has 14 points (6-8) in his past 11 games while Panarin has recorded 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) through an 11-game streak.
“I’ll be shocked if we move Strome,” Quinn said. “We’re not that far along in the process of where to put Mika because he’s probably not going to play this week, so, we have addressed it a little bit, but there are other issues we have to focus on right now.
“We’ll address that when Mika comes back, but I’m not taking Strome out of the middle unless something drastic happens.”
Expect, then, Zibanejad to skate between Chris Kreider and either Pavel Buchnevich or Kaapo Kakko upon his reentry. The alternate captain will miss his 10th straight game Wednesday at the Garden against the Capitals. It appears as if the best-case scenario for a return would be next Monday at the Garden against the Wild following road games Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Ottawa and Montreal.
Quinn said the time off between Saturday’s loss at Florida and Wednesday’s game factored into his decision to heap 27:57 of ice time on both Panarin and Strome.
“One of the reasons those guys played as much as they did was because of the three days off,” he said, “That was part of the thought process behind playing those guys an absurd amount of minutes.”
Kakko, who missed each of the past two game with the flu, said he will play against the Caps.
“I’m not feeling my best, but I am better,” he said.
Filip Chytil took the day for maintenance but is expected to face Washington. Micheal Haley, who cleared waivers on Monday, remains on the roster and skated in No. 72’s spot at practice.
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