WINNIPEG, Manitoba — When the Rangers return home for a pit stop at Wednesday’s Casino Night, the folks attending are advised to queue at the table of dealer Mika Zibanejad, who is on one of the great hot streaks of recent franchise vintage.
Maybe some of it will rub off.
Very good and very lucky, that defines Zibanejad’s match Tuesday in which he scored two more goals, the first on an intended pass in front from a sharp right-wing angle that banked in, and the second on a fling from the left side that got by netminder Connor Hellebuyck after ricocheting off Jets defensemen Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey.
“It’s obviously nice to see the bounces go in,” the center said after his team’s 4-3 loss to the Central Division-leading Jets. “But we didn’t win, so it doesn’t really matter.”
Zibanejad has recorded 13 goals over his past 11 games, the second Ranger since the 1989-90 season to accomplish that feat, after Adam Graves in 1993-94 and Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06. The center, who finished last season by recording 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in the final eight games, has 25 goals and 56 points in the Blueshirts’ 56 games.
The Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello-Chris Kreider line went minus-one in its matchup against the Jets’ powerful Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler-Kyle Connor top line. The trio entered the match with a 56.7 Corsi, a 57.4 shot share and a plus-10 rating (15/5) in its previous 12 games intact since Jan. 10.
Dustin Byfuglien escaped without a penalty for his flying elbow to Jimmy Vesey’s head late in the first period and was handed merely a two-minute minor for his elbow that sent Jesper Fast’s head into the rear glass late in the second period.
The Blueshirts went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the second straight game and the third time in the past five matches. The maneuverability allowed coach David Quinn to move Neal Pionk, who started the night as the swing guy, up to Marc Staal’s right side while Tony DeAngelo struggled at even-strength.
“The bottom line is that you want to dress your best 18 skaters,” the coach said before the game. “Right now we feel that includes seven defensemen.”
Thus, Vinni Lettieri was the healthy scratch up front. Brett Howden, who hails from Winnipeg, made the trip while continuing his rehab for a sprained MCL.
AHL Hartford goaltender Marek Mazanec was traded Tuesday. The 27-year-old Czech, who spent 10 days on the NHL roster and backed up a few games after signing last summer as a free agent, was sent to the injury-wracked Canucks in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick. Mazanec has not played in the NHL since 2016-17, when he started twice and made four appearances for the Predators.
The Rangers, devoid of a seventh-rounder this year (sent to Boston in the Adam McQuaid deal), now have three in 2020. General manager Jeff Gorton last week acquired Nashville’s 2020 seventh in exchange for Cody McLeod.
This post was originally posted at https://nypost.com/2019/02/13/mika-zibanejads-goal-scoring-streak-reaches-a-new-level/. WGEH does not own this content and is not responsible for it.