Mats Zuccarello’s injury came at the wrong time.
Sure, there is no good time for a player to be sidelined with any kind of injury, but for a player like Zuccarello, who is doing everything he can to get another shot at the NHL, his injured ankle is just another hurdle the winger must overcome.
Zuccarello hasn’t had the smoothest sailing in 2011. A vicious hit from the Springfield Falcons’ Adam Mair knocked him out with a concussion in October. Zuccarello returned quickly and to form, playing like he hadn’t missed a beat.
With 22 points in 18 games, Zuccarello shares the team lead in points with Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. Before hurting his ankle against Hershey, an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for four to six weeks, Zuccarello had scored two points in each of his last four games and had a point streak of six straight games that he will have to wait to extend.
Simply put, Zuccarello had nothing left to prove in the AHL. On the ice, the Norwegian forward was a spark plug for the offense and a key to the Connecticut Whale’s success on the powerplay. Without Zuccarello in the lineup, the first place Whale will once again have to find offense from different sources, something they’ve been used to all season.
But for Zuccarello, the injury could mean a minor setback in the forward’s attempt to find the success he was on his way to having this time last year.
The Rangers are swamped with forwards. The good play of Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell, combined with the eventual return of Mike Rupp and Wojtek Wolski, are making playing time for forwards even more difficult to come by in the Rangers’ organization. Sean Avery and Erik Christensen already find themselves switching seats in the press box.
Now Zuccarello might have something to prove in the AHL. A quick, healthy return to form from his ankle injury will go far in him getting another look from the Rangers in the coming months, or from another club as the NHL approaches the trade deadline.
No matter what has been said by the Rangers or Zuccarello in the past weeks, I think both sides would welcome a trade scenario warmly. If the Rangers don’t want him playing in their lineup or simply can’t find the right spot for him, surely someone else would be able to. Zuccarello’s strong play in Hartford proves that he without a doubt deserves the opportunity.