The Rangers have sent young forward Chris Kreider to the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League, the team announced Thursday afternoon. The move all but guarantees that winger Rick Nash is ready to play Thursday when the team hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
This is the second time Kreider, 22, has been sent down to the team's minor league affiliate; the last time it was for a mere cup of coffee, as he was recalled one day later.
But this stint likely will be longer, as the team feels Kreider's development will be best served by receiving more playing time in the AHL. Since a breakout playoff debut last spring, Kreider has struggled to replicate that success this season. He has been limited to only one goal and one assist in 11 games played and has served as a healthy scratch for a handful of games.
The speedy winger's role has been reduced largely to third-line duty, and he's averaging only 10 minutes, 22 seconds per game. In Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Winnipeg, he saw the ice for only 4:33.
The Rangers have expressed a reluctance to rush along their young players and are likely treating Kreider's case with that sort of caution. They still see him as a top organizational asset but likely feel that getting his confidence back in the minors is the next-best step.