The games without any contribution from Rangers center Mika Zibanejad are beginning to pile up.
The 27-year-old hasn’t recorded a goal since the 4-3 loss to the Devils in the Rangers’ third game of the season and he’s registered just one assist in the last eight games. Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden saw another lackluster performance from Zibanejad, who put up just three shots and a blocked shot in the shutout defeat.
Asked if he was growing frustrated with his lack of production, the Swedish center’s answer was already all over his face.
“I think any player would be,” Zibanejad said. “So yeah, it is frustrating, but I’m trying to work through it. I mean, I thought we created a little bit more today as a line and you just got to keep doing that and the more chances you get, you have to get on the score sheet and help the team win.
“Yes, it is frustrating but trying to work through it. It’s not going to be perfect through a whole season, through [your] whole career, so it’s just another challenge or another tough situation you have to overcome and you do that by working hard.”
The top-line center is coming off back-to-back 70-plus point seasons, but after contracting COVID-19 during training camp and subsequently missing nearly all of it, Zibanejad hasn’t been able to get back to his usual style of play.
“It’s definitely a tough team to play against,” Zibanejad said of the Islanders. “They’re structured, they do a lot of good things defensively and just got to give them credit, and we have to find a way to have an answer for that. We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Blueshirts set a single-game season-high after winning 61.4 percent of faceoffs (27 of 44) in the loss.
Zibanejad and Ryan Strome tied for a game-high 11 faceoff wins, with Zibanejad taking 11 of 13 and Strome going 11 for 15.
“It is [nice to see but] now we have to sustain it,” coach David Quinn said. “And we’re obviously not going to go 61 percent all the time, but to be in the battles the way we were, I thought our centermen certainly were bearing down a little bit more.
“I thought our flanks were doing a much better job. So overall, a much better night on the faceoff circle.”
Alexis Lafreniere tied for the game-high and led the Rangers with five hits, while also tying for a game-high two takeaways.