Panarin returns to face Blue Jackets with Rangers

Sports

Artemi Panarin spent the previous two seasons piling up the points for the Columbus Blue Jackets and then cashed in during free agency to sign with the New York Rangers in July.

He’ll make his return to Columbus on Thursday night when the Rangers visit the Blue Jackets.

Panarin led the Blue Jackets with a team-record 82 points in 2017-18 and then totaled 87 points last season as Columbus reached the playoffs in both seasons. The Blue Jackets obtained him in a trade with Chicago after he played his first two seasons there but were unable to retain him as the Rangers signed him to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract.

Two months into the deal, it is working out for the Rangers. Panarin leads the Rangers in scoring with 12 goals and 21 assists and he was highly productive while Mika Zibanejad was out with an upper-body injury from Oct. 27-Nov. 25.

Panarin has a point in 20 of New York’s 26 games and before not getting a point in the Rangers’ past two games, he had 23 points in 14 games. He also had a 12-game points streak from Oct. 24-Nov. 20 in which he totaled seven goals and 12 assists.

“I am confident,” he said after a 4-1 win over Washington Nov. 20. “I try to play hard every game. Nothing changes. I do what I do every day the same.”

Panarin has not gone more than two games without getting a point. His production has helped the Rangers go 9-5-2 in their past 16 games and 5-2-1 in their past eight games since losing consecutive games at Tampa Bay and Florida Nov. 14-16.

The Rangers are hoping to rebound from Monday’s 4-1 home loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when they allowed two power-play goals and went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

“I’ve mentioned this before, where we’ve been good, or really bad (defensively),” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “It’s a mindset, and something we’ve got to completely buy into — that night in and night out, we have to be way more committed to playing the right way and playing defense.”

Without Panarin, the Blue Jackets’ 68 goals are the second-fewest in the league, only ahead of Detroit’s 63. The Blue Jackets are 6-9-2 in their past 17 games since Oct. 24 and have scored three goals or less 14 times in that span.

Columbus dropped to 1-11-2 when scoring two goals or fewer on Tuesday when it dropped a 4-2 decision on home ice to the Arizona Coyotes.

“It’s been like that almost the whole season,” Columbus defenseman Dean Kukan said. “We can’t score goals. That’s the main issue we have. All in all, we played a good game.”

Kukan and Alexandre Texier scored Tuesday for the Blue Jackets, who were hoping Cam Atkinson could step into Panarin’s productive role. Atkinson had an assist Tuesday but only has 15 points so far and one goal in his past 17 games.

Columbus is struggling to score despite getting plenty of chances. The Blue Jackets outshot Arizona 35-28.

The Blue Jackets are 5-0-1 in the past six meetings against the Rangers.

–Field Level Media

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