Brassard could make big difference

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Derick Brassard doesn’t really care how he scores, as long as he does and his team is winning.

Not that his eighth goal of the season Sunday night was a fluke. No, the sizzling slap shot from the left circle was executed just as he intended, but it was a bit out of the norm.

Brassard has managed ample production on the New York Rangers’ sixth-ranked power-play -- he is tied for the team lead with five man-up markers -- even though his even-strength numbers still leave something to be desired.

His first-period goal in Sunday’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers was only his third of the season at even strength. Of the 17 assists he has registered in 45 games this season, more than half (nine in total) have come on the man-advantage.

“I think my overall game in the past few weeks has been good, but 5-on-5 I know I can try to chip in a little bit more,” Brassard said after practice Monday.

It isn’t for lack of scoring chances, as he’s had plenty playing on a line with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot, a trio that has capitalized on speed, skill and creativity. Brassard has 16 shots on goal in the past four games, including a season-high seven against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, on Jan. 6.

But Sunday’s goal was his first in more than two months at even strength. Prior to that, Brassard had not scored 5-on-5 since Nov. 6.

“I think when he’s on the right side of the opposition and the right side of the puck defensively, it leads to great opportunities offensively,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “We need to see more of that from him. He’s been real effective on the power play, but we need him to be real effective 5-on-5.”

Brassard is aware of that expectation, and that’s partly because of his strong play down the stretch last season. He had five goals and 11 points in 13 regular season games for the Blueshirts after being traded at the deadline from Columbus. He went on to produce at a point-per-game pace in the postseason, with two goals and 10 assists in 12 playoff games.

If the Rangers are going to make it back to the playoffs, they need Brassard to step it up and again be a top contributor, in all on-ice situations. Brassard hopes his power-play prowess starts carrying over soon.

“Sometimes, when we score on the power play I can find myself and my team and my linemates, that we have another energy in our game, that we want to go back on the ice right away. It gives yourself the confidence to make plays,” Brassard said. “I’m not really worrying about it right now because we’re winning.”