New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad has found his confidence on the ice as the team tries to finish the season on a high note.
Zibanejad scored his career high 25th goal of the season in Tuesdays 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has now registered five goals in the last three games, nine points in last five games. The Rangers power play has also benefited from Zibanejad’s resurgence as he has scored three power-play goals in the last five games.
Zibanejaed suffered a concussion in mid-November and missed three weeks of action, returning to the Rangers on Dec. 19. This was the second time in two years that Zibanejad suffered an injury early in the season. Last year he broke his fibula and in both instances struggled once he came back to the lineup.
Zibanejad acknowledges that both injuries affected his play when he returned to the game. Speaking to Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News Zibanejad said,
“At least from my side, it’s pretty obvious, just going through it. I’ve been trying to work through it and battle through it, you miss that much time (last) season, I feel like it’s hard to get your rhythm back. And then an injury like this, when it comes to a head injury and it’s not the first time, you start thinking about it a little more, you’re aware of it.”
The concussion Zibanejad suffered seemed to have long lingering effects when he returned to the team. Not so much as a post-concussion syndrome effect, more of a worry that it could happen again once he resumed playing, a fear many players have when returning from this kind of injury.
In the 23 games prior to his injury, Zibanejad recorded 11 goals, 11 assists for 22 points. These numbers include six power-play goals and five power-play assists.
The next 34 games, following his return to the team on Dec. 19, Mika registered only eight goals with 12 points. His power- play production suffered along with those numbers as he had one power-play goal with four power-play assists.
“I think the work ethic has been there. The intentions are there. The battle level has been better this year,” Zibanejad says. “More confident (now.) I think when you get those points, when you get rewarded for that hard work, I think you look a little different because of the confidence you have.”
Zibanejad, just 24-years-old, signed a five year, $27.5 million contract July 2017. He is the Rangers number one centerman, winning 65 percent of his face-offs this season.
As the rebuild is underway in Rangerstown, one thing is very certain. Mika Zibanejad is going to be needed on this team. His experience on face-offs, along with his power-play skill will be valuable tools he must have to help along the young kids that will be on the team when camp opens next September.
The truly hard part for Zibanejad is keeping healthy for an entire season, something he has been unable to do since joining the team.