The Rangers announced after their loss to the Islanders on Saturday that they have sent down Mats Zuccarello to the AHL and recalled center Kris Newbury to take his place on the roster. On Sunday, the team also announced that they have recalled defenseman Brendan Bell to join them on their road trip through Canada that begins with a game tomorrow night against the Vancouver Canucks.
Kris Newbury was leading the Connecticut Whale with 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in four games this season, while Bell had recorded an assist in two games with the Whale since he was assigned there after the Rangers got back from Sweden.
Read more below for comments from Mats Zuccarello on being sent down to the Connecticut Whale.
I think it's a bit surprising the Rangers chose to send down Mats Zuccarello so soon after it seemed like he was a lock to make this team all throughout training camp. The fact is, Zuccarello simply just wasn't playing well and it was a waste having him on this team playing under 10 minutes a night on the fourth line. The Rangers still apparently have high hopes for Zuccarello in the long run, and it's better for him to continue playing major minutes with the Whale so he can continue improving.
Here's what Zuccarello had to say to Andrew Gross after the game Saturday:
“Of course,” Zuccarello said to me when I asked about his disappointment level. “I felt like I improved a lot. It’s tough. It’s hard to give me ice time. There’s a lot of players.”
“I just have have to go down and try my best and see what happens,” Zuccarello added. “Obviously, I’m disappointed. It’d be strange if I wasn’t.”
Personally, I've always been unconvinced that Mats Zuccarello will be a long-term part of the Rangers' future plans. I just haven't seen enough good things from him consistently to make me think the Rangers will ever really have much use for him beyond playing on the third line. His lack of size is also going to continue to be brought up until Zuke proves that it's not a factor in the way that he plays.
Newbury has basically been an AHL veteran/NHL journeyman throughout his career and spent some time with the Rangers last season primarily playing on the fourth line, where John Tortorella saw some things he really liked from him. Newbury has certainly earned another look from the Rangers with his red hot start to the AHL season, so we'll see what he can contribute during his latest stint here.
Also, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but I again have to question management's decision to waive Sean Avery following training camp when Wojtek Wolski has been battling a sore groin for several weeks now and the Rangers apparently weren't convinced enough to stick with Mats Zuccarello for very long once the regular season started.
Brendan Bell's recall, on the other hand, is more of an insurance policy. With Michael Sauer's status uncertain for tomorrow's game with a banged up shoulder, the Rangers wanted to have an extra defenseman with them for the road trip in Canada in case something happens to one of their other defensemen and they need another body to step into the lineup. I expect Jeff Woywitka will get another opportunity in the game tomorrow since he had a decent showing in his debut on Saturday.
You can read the official press release from the Connecticut Whale announcing the roster moves here.