Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Desperate for offense, the New York Rangers will showcase new lines for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The New York Rangers are mixing it up ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blueshirts have been having a tough time producing offensively at even-strength lately, so head coach David Quinn is looking to shake things up quite a bit.

Vince Mercogliano of USA Today tweeted the new-look lines for the Leafs game… if Chris Kreider plays:

  1. Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich/Kakko
  2. Panarin-Chytil-Fast
  3. Di Giuseppe-Strome-Buchnevich/Kakko
  4. Howden-McKegg-Lemieux

Kreider was accidentally kneed in the head by Mika Zibanejad in Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. He left the game and did not return, but the Rangers have said it’s not serious, and he should be back soon.

These lines are interesting and very unlike what we have seen this season. What stands out most is that Quinn has decided to split up Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.

Strome is having a peculiar season. He is 26 years old and is in his seventh season. In four years with the New York Islanders, the team that drafted him, Strome had 126 points, coming in the form of 45 goals and 81 assists. In 100 games with the Edmonton Oilers, Strome scored 14 goals and had 22 assists. He is now having the best season of his career.

While it is nice for fans to see Strome thriving, it is also suspicious. He has never been anything more than a decent hockey player until now. That being said, it is not absurd to claim that Strome is having the season he is having because he has been attached at the hip to Panarin, who is currently one of the best players in the league.

In 51 games this year, Strome has 12 goals and 32 assists, most of which have involved Panarin. It seems as though Quinn wants to see what Strome can do away from Panarin.

This is a smart move, as the organization needs to see what exactly Strome is capable of without the Bread Man constantly delivering. However, with the trade deadline approaching, it may not be the best of ideas to split the dynamic duo up just yet. Strome is incredibly valuable at the moment and the Rangers could get a great return for him if they choose to move him.

If he does end up playing on a different line than Panarin, his numbers could very well dip, and his trade value will decrease. Nevertheless, in order to plan for the long run, the Rangers need to figure out if Strome can consistently produce regardless of his linemates or if he is just a product of Panarin’s success.

In Strome’s stead, Filip Chytil will assume second-line center duties. Chytil looked fantastic after his recall from the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Before the NHL All-Star Break, Quinn assembled what came to be known as the “Diaper Line,” consisting of youngsters Chytil, Brett Howden and Kaapo Kakko. They played some good hockey together, but Chytil’s production has dipped as of late; he has just three goals and four assists in his last 26 games.

Quinn is probably thinking a change of scenery on a different line alongside the most productive player on the team, Panarin, may get Chytil going again.

It looks like Quinn was impressed enough by Phillip Di Giuseppe’s play last night against the Dallas Stars to give him top-nine minutes, and rightfully so. Overall, Di Giuseppe played well. He looked confident and was not afraid to take shots.

Artemi Panarin, The Bread Man T-Shirt

The fourth line is another interesting one that we have not seen before. Brendan Lemieux will play at right-wing, which is something we are not used to seeing. It looks like Quinn has decided to send Brendan Smith back to the defense, as well. Greg McKegg is the worst player on that line, and it will be interesting to see how Howden and Lemieux do on its wings.

Lastly, fans will be eager to see how Quinn deploys Pavel Buchnevich and Kakko. Kakko has had a rough start to his NHL career, but has looked much better lately. He is playing with confidence and looks comfortable.

Buchnevich appears to have gotten the monkey off his back and is putting up points after going through several scoring droughts this season. However, Quinn did not like how Buchnevich played last night, even though he scored, and proceeded to bench him in the third period. When asked about it, Quinn curtly said, “I didn’t like his game at all.”

As a result, he may be inclined to demote Buchnevich to the third line. He may also want to just split up the KZB line for a change of pace. Kakko’s improved play will also play a part in the decision-making process, as Quinn may decide he has earned top-line minutes.

Tomorrow’s game will be one of the most interesting Rangers games of the year because of the drastic change in lines. The coaches and the fans will hope this will spark some offense and that this will be the way to go for the future.

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