NEW YORK, N.Y. — When Kevin Shattenkirk watches Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks from the Madison Square Garden press box, it will technically be listed as a healthy scratch. But in reality it’s more than a punishment for a slow start.
The 29-year-old Shattenkirk hasn’t been himself with the New York Rangers this season. Zero points, three shots on goal over his last two games, and a 15-minute dip in ice time from Game No. 2 to Game No. 3. The blue liner would tell you his play hasn’t been great so far, which might be expected considering he’s coming off surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
His first year in New York ended on Jan. 18 and his second year isn’t off to the best of starts and he knows it.
“I think I need to get the urgency back in my game a little bit. I think it’s a little too slow right now for me,” Shattenkirk said. “At the puck, just being a little harder to play against in our D-zone, one-on-ones, just making my decisions quicker.
“There’s making your decisions quicker and playing with urgency and getting things done because you have to get them done. I think it’s what I’ve been lacking.”
So when new Rangers head coach David Quinn told him he’d be sitting vs. the Sharks, the message was received and understood, and pretty much expected. With an 0-3-0 start, they need one of their top defenseman to be at 100 percent, and it’s too early in the season to be forcing things. Correct the problem now, reap the benefits later as things hopefully improve.
“It’s the NHL,” said Shattenkirk. “If you’re not playing well, there’s guys that are playing well.”
Shattenkirk would admit this is a kick he needs and he’s not alone. Vladislav Namestnikov and Kevin Hayes have been benched during games this season, showing the new coach isn’t afraid to make bold decisions early in his tenure.
Quinn, who was an assistant when Shattenkirk was at Boston University and attended the defenseman’s wedding over the summer, didn’t expect him to be at 100 percent to begin the season, so this is all part of the recovery process.
“He’s kind of finding his way mentally more than anything,” Quinn said Thursday. “He’s fine physically, but he doesn’t have a lot of confidence from a skating perspective… If you were sitting in hearing our conversations, this is not a ‘Are you kidding me?’ type of conversation.
“We’ve talked through this and he’s going right back in on Saturday (vs. Edmonton). This is part of him getting back to where he needs to be.”