There are views from inside and from upstairs, and they don’t always line up.
Inside the Rangers’ locker room, they believe in themselves, believe in their chance to make a run at the playoffs and believe in battling every day to pick up as many points as possible. Up in the front office, there is a focus on the future, on maximizing their assets in the lead-up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline and on improving the roster to be a perennial contender — after this season.
So if there were a lesson to be learned from the injury scare to Chris Kreider during the fretful 1-0 win over the awful Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night — and that’s assuming it was just a scare, as conveyed by coach David Quinn after the game — then the lesson is that aligning these views of the present and the future can be difficult.
“Other teams are going to get those [points], so we have to get them,” alternate captain Marc Staal said after the home-and-home sweep of the Wings. “What else do you play for? Even if you don’t want to talk about it, you play for playing in the playoffs.”
The Rangers (25-21-4) went into their off day on Super Bowl Sunday nine points out of the second wild-card spot with four teams to leapfrog over the final 32 games. More importantly to the upstairs view, there are 11 games left until the deadline — six of them on the road — which is why the Kreider situation was so temporarily nerve-racking.
Early in the second period, Kreider went down in the corner, and as teammate Mika Zibanejad was coming around the boards, he tried to jump over Kreider to avoid him. Instead, Zibanejad’s right knee caught the side of Kreider’s head, violently snapping it back. Kreider was slow to get up, went to the locker room and did not return.
Quinn said that it was not a concussion and that Kreider was already feeling better after the game. The Rangers called him “day-to-day,” but it might be a little premature to think he can play in Monday night’s Garden match against the Stars.
Of course, the 28-year-old Kreider is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, making him arguably the most attractive rental player on the trade market. If the Rangers are considering re-signing him, it is because they believe he is worth the contract. If they trade him, it would be because they think that salary-cap money can be spent better elsewhere in the coming years, coupled with a return that could be too hard to pass up.
It would not because they want him in order to make a run at this postseason, even if that is the way his teammates are thinking about it.
“He’s a massive part of our room and our lineup,” Staal said. “To see him go down like that, hopefully it’s not too long. He means a lot to this room.”
Quinn, too, can focus only on trying to win games. That’s his job. So before Saturday night’s game, he called it “a big one,” adding: “I just like the feel of our team. There’s a real connection right now. Our guys are really all playing together and all playing for each other.”
Soon, some of them — including Kreider — might be playing elsewhere. But, as the Rangers have shown, to reconcile the big picture and the everyday focus is almost impossible.
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