New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad is proud of the fact that he’s being asked to shutdown other team’s top lines.
Everyone knows he can score, but Mika Zibanejad is showing that he can defend as well.
The New York Rangers center has shown he can light the lamp in the past, scoring at least 20 goals in three of his last four seasons (he scored 14 in 2016-17 when he was limited to only 56 games). He also put one home during Monday’s victory over the Senators.
However, coach David Quinn has asked him to play more of a shutdown role in recent weeks thanks to injuries to the roster. He’s been on a line with Vladislav Namestnikov and defensive stalwart Jepser Fast and asked to match up with top lines.
While some players with tons of offensive talent might resent being asked to focus more on defending, Zibanejad is embracing it, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
“It makes me proud to know that the coaching staff has that kind of trust in me and our line.”
Zibanejad was sitting on a seven-game scoreless streak before getting one against the Senators, but the young veteran still felt like he was helping the team.
“There are different ways a player or a line can contribute to a team,” said Zibanejad, tied for the club lead in points with Kreider at 21. “At the same time, you don’t want to settle for just playing well defensively.”
Zibanejad has eight goals and 21 points in 25 games this season, so he’s been contributing offensively as well. He came into the season knowing that he needed to produce more in order for the team to have any hope of success.
Through a quarter of the season, he’s done so while playing strong defensive hockey. He’s quickly proving to be worth his contract extension.