NEW YORK -- At the start of the season, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider was considered one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy after bursting onto the scene during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kreider was instead assigned to Connecticut of the AHL after his minutes began to diminish from poor play and then an ankle injury hindered his progress. But after a little more than three weeks with the Whale, the 21-year-old will find himself on the Rangers' third line when they play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I was able to play big minutes and play in all situations," Kreider told reporters of his AHL stint, following the Rangers' practice at Greenburgh, N.Y. "Any time you can do that, it helps your development, I guess.”
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who complained of headaches following a 3-2 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday stemming from a collision with teammate Dan Girardi, said he feels good after taking off Wednesday and will start in net. He'll likely be opposed by Florida's Jacob Markstrom, who is coming off a 33-save performance in a 4-1 win at Carolina on Tuesday.
The Panthers will be without Eric Selleck, who was sent back to Sunrise, Fla., after suffering a concussion in a fight Tuesday. He was also suspended a total of two games for instigating the fight and leaving the bench to do so. Coach Kevin Dineen said this will be a big opportunity for Quinton Howden, a first-round pick of the Panthers in 2010. This will be Howden's second NHL game.
The Rangers' lines seem like a sure thing, but the Panthers skated at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, and there isn't a clear line of sight at the West Rink for charting line combinations. Take Florida's with a grain of salt.
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Drew Shore - Jonathan Huberdeau - Peter Mueller
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Quinton Howden - Mike Santorelli - Jerred Smithson
Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell
Erik Gudbranson - TJ Brennan
Colby Robak - Tyson Strachan
Scratches: Eric Selleck (concussion, suspension), Alex Kovalev, George Parros
Rick Nash - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider - Brian Boyle - J.T. Miller
Taylor Pyatt - Jeff Halpern - Darroll Powe
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Steve Eminger
Roman Hamrlik - Anton Stralman
Scratches: Stu Bickel, Steve Eminger