by Mark Owens
Gomez is riding high with a 10-game point streak, and since the end of October has amassed 30 points in 26 games. However, his 19:31 of ice time per game ranks him just 149th in the league. There are 45 NHL forwards (including 25 centers) with more ice time per game than Gomez. Despite being the best player on the ice against Carolina Wednesday night, Gomez was just 5th among Ranger forwards in ice time (18:31).
Since Gomez doesn’t kill penalties, Renney needs to give him more even-strength ice time, and double shift him from time to time. Giving Gomez a few shifts per game with the third line should give Petr Prucha and Ryan Callahan more chances to find the back of the net.
There is little reason to believe that a third line featuring any combination of Prucha, Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Marcel Hossa is going to contribute much offensively. We just haven’t seen it. Combined, those players have seven goals in 120 games (combined), an average of one goal every 17 games. Nigel Dawes was on target to score more goals than those four players combined, but he’s on the Hartford shuttle once again.
Similarly, despite some nice efforts recently, the fourth line of Blair Betts, Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr has been a liability most of the season, with just two goals in 110 combined games, or 1 goal per 55 games! Further, this unit is a combined -22.
As the season’s first half winds down, the Rangers find themselves one of 14 Eastern Conference teams who are closer to last place than they are to the first place Ottawa Senators. To pull away from that pack and secure a playoff position, the Rangers need to display the passion they showed against the Hurricanes, score timely goals, ride Henrik Lundqvist‘s excellent goaltending and award ice time to the players and line combinations who achieve positive results.
Renney should follow the ice-time model deployed by teams like Ottawa, Carolina and Detroit, whose best forwards rank among the league’s top 25 in ice time per game. Gomez is the Rangers’ best player right now and is young, durable and well paid ‘ get him on the ice more!