by Patrick Hoffman on 11/27/08 at 10:00 AM ET
Throughout training camp and preseason, New York Rangers’ head coach Tom Renney had Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev together.
During this time, the two found instant chemistry by being able to find each other on the ice, utilize their speed, jump into open holes and more importantly, create scoring chances.
Two months later, the two players are doing it again and last night’s 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning was a perfect example.
In regulation time, the duo combined for four points as Naslund had two goals and Zherdev had two assists. Then in the shootout, they each scored to help give their team regain first place in the Eastern Conference (34 points).
Zherdev even added a new element to his game, as he fought with Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos after he delivered a high hit.
“I like the fact that he stood up for himself,” Renney told the team’s website after the game. “I think that’s really important because with skill players, they are going to be challenged like that occasionally. There were two good young hockey players showing the level of passion that you have to play with to compete at this level. You know what? Good for both of them.”
The team’s leading scoreres (Zherdev has 22 points and Naslund has 19 points) linemates buzzed around the Lightning net throughout the game and made life extremely difficult for netminder Mike Smith as they put pucks to the net and got into good shooting position often. There was even a clip on MSG Network that showed Zherdev pushing Naslund to get back on defense.
“I think we expected them to be a desperate team because they have been struggling a little bit, and now with the coaching change they are going to try everything they can to get back in the playoff picture,” Naslund told the team’s website after the club’s road victory. “I thought we answered and played a decent game.”
Renney may juggle the lines a lot but I think he found something early on with Zherdev and Naslund. The question remains how long will Renney keep these two together?
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
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