Chris Kreider has been a main contributor for the New York Rangers this season. His 19 goals are tied for the team lead with Mika Zibanejad and while he is not on pace to score over 50 goals again, he is on pace for over 40. Kreider was injured during the 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild and it appeared to be a shoulder injury after taking a hit from Marcus Foligno.
While we were told this was a short-term injury, his absence from the team will have some drastic changes to the Rangers lineup going forward.
The first major change is that Alexis Lafreniere will be taking his spot on the top line. He will be playing with Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko. This line had some success when they were together in early December, but was eventually broken up as is tradition with Gerard Gallant. Now that they are back together, they have the chance to build some more chemistry together and could become a dominant line for the Rangers and could be an option should injuries occur in the future.
Not only will Lafreniere take Kreider’s spot on the top line, but he will also get the first chance to take his spot on the top power-play unit. Fans have been asking for Lafreniere to get more power-play time and although it comes at the cost of Kreider, now is his chance to make the most of that time. We all know that the first unit stays out for most of the time and we know that they have their games when they get nothing done. Maybe Lafreniere can provide the spark the top power-play unit needs to get back on track.
This injury also impacts some of the other kids on the team. Kakko has said that he plays his best hockey with Zibanejad and Kreider. Will he be able to work with Lafreniere the same he does with Kreider? Also, Vitali Kravtsov could also see more minutes as Gallant could play his line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. They could be played as 1A and 1B if that is how Gallant wants to play the lines.
If this injury is short-term, Kreider will be back sooner than later. However, if it does become a long-term injury, all the players are going to have to step up to fill the void. The Kids especially will be given a greater role during his absence. Let’s see if they can step up or will some mistakes be made along the way.