Rangers Notebook: Taylor Pyatt is an odd man out
Taylor Pyatt is not a man without a country.
He is, for the foreseeable future, a man without a role on the 2013-14 Rangers.
Head coach Alain Vigneault announced prior to Wednesday night’s nationally televised match against the Penguins that Pyatt would not play and it does not sound as if there is a timetable for the left wing to rejoin the lineup.
“Right now [Pyatt is] on the outside,” Vigneault said. “After a strong training camp, he was given a lot of opportunities, whether it be on one of the top two lines, or third or fourth, and he never really, after training camp, got his game going. Right now he’s on the outside looking in and I’m not quite sure where all of that is going to go.”
When pressed if Pyatt would be demoted to AHL Hartford, Vigneault said “not to my knowledge.”
The coach later played coy when asked if the team was contemplating making player personnel changes prior to the NHL Holiday Roster Freeze, which effectively makes NHL rosters stationary between Dec. 19 and Dec. 27.
“We talked yesterday, briefly, after I talked to you guys,” Vigneault said. “We’re going to talk tonight and then after the game, and if there are some things we need to address, we’ll do it after tonight.”
Pyatt has been a disappointment in his two years with the Rangers. Signed to a two-year, $3.1 million unrestricted free agent contract in July 2012, Pyatt has not produced offensively or been a physical presence. Pyatt has just 12 points (six goals and six assists) and a minus-4 rating in 70 games spanning the lockout-shortened 2013 season and the 2013-14 campaign. He has 16 penalty minutes and thrown 109 hits in that time.
Out of the doghouse
Two players who are not in the coach’s doghouse are left wings Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello.
Vigneault spent some of his pregame media briefing heaping praise on the two wings, both of whom had to earn his trust. Kreider started the season at AHL Hartford before being called up on Oct. 20. Since the recall, Kreider’s plus-9 ranking leads the team. His eight goals are second most behind Brad Richards’ nine.
“Ever since he’s been back from his time in Hartford he’s been one of our most efficient players,” Vigneault said. “He’s been a real good player for us.”
Zuccarello has essentially played himself into a top-6 forward role after being scratched for the 2-1 loss to the Flyers on Oct. 24 in Philadelphia. Zuccarello’s 21 points are third most on the Rangers behind Richards’ 25 and Derek Stepan’s 21. He is second on the team in assists with 15 and his six goals are tied with Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin for third.
“He’s taken a huge step forward,” Vigneault said. “He responded like a real professional. He’s been one of our better players.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.