Rangers, Devils meet as trade rumors swirl
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New York Rangers teammates Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello are on the trading block, with the trade deadline coming up on Monday.
The Rangers have two games before then -- Saturday afternoon at home against the New Jersey Devils, and Sunday at the Washington Capitals -- with Hayes and Zuccarello still expected to be in the lineup, for now.
"As I stand here now, guys that are on the roster will be in the lineup until I'm told differently," Rangers coach David Quinn told reporters after Friday's practice.
Zuccarello is in the final year of a four-year, $18 million contract he signed before the 2015 trade deadline, when the Rangers were the defending Eastern Conference champions and on their way to claiming the Presidents' Trophy before losing to Tampa Bay in the conference finals.
When the Rangers began rebuilding at last year's trade deadline, it was expected that the team would deal Zuccarello. Heading into Saturday, Zuccarello is fourth on the team with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists).
"I am not the GM or the coach of this team, so you gotta ask them," said the 31-year-old Zuccarello, who made his debut with the Rangers in December 2010. "I try and do my best as long as I'm here and as long as they call my name in the lineup.
"I mean, you never know. I have fun every time I play hockey. I have fun every time I'm in this rink. Whatever happens, happens."
Although Zuccarello did not get a point in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, he is part of a surging first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Zuccarello has seven goals and 16 assists in his past 18 games; the trio has totaled 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) over their last 16 games together.
Hayes, also a free agent after this season, has four goals and five assists in 12 games since returning after missing eight games due to an upper-body injury. Before getting hurt, he totaled five goals and 11 assists during a nine-game points streak.
Another candidate to become a former Ranger by Monday is defenseman Adam McQuaid. He did not play after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period Thursday but is expected to play Saturday.
While the Rangers elected to play players who are expected to be dealt, the Devils held out Marcus Johansson and veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy on Thursday ahead of any possible trades. Both players will make the trip to New York but are expected to be scratched again.
Without those two veterans, the Devils won for the third time in four games by getting goals from Travis Zajac, Steven Santini, Kurtis Gabriel and Miles Wood in a 4-0 home win over the Ottawa Senators.
"This time of year's never easy, and this is sort of the consequence of not having a good year to this point," said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
"Guys are getting held out or traded or you're losing guys in the room. I don't think anyone in here is safe for next year. We have to prove we belong here and that we can play a role here and be key contributors going forward."
Schneider made 30 saves Thursday and won his third straight appearance. He snapped a 21-game winless skid when he relieved Keith Kinkaid on Feb. 15 in Minnesota and has stopped 64 of 65 shots in his last two starts.
New York began the season series by getting four points from Zibanejad and coming back for a 4-3 victory at New Jersey on Jan. 31.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 22, 2019