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Shattenkirk building confidence with Rangers by focusing on power play

Defenseman's focus on man-advantage fueling New York's six-game winning streak

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Kevin Shattenkirk wanted to come out on fire with the New York Rangers to prove he deserved the four-year, $26.6 million contract he signed on July 1, to show that he was the prize of the 2017 free agent class for a reason.

Instead, the 28-year-old defenseman, much like his team, found himself in a fog for most of the first month. He was worrying about impressing, which led to playing out of his element, thinking he could help turn around a woeful start by doing more than what was asked of him.

"Taking care of the entire team when I needed to just focus on my own game," Shattenkirk said.

After talking it over with associate coach Scott Arniel, Shattenkirk simplified his focus and made the power play, his bread and butter, a priority. The difference has changed the trajectory of his and the Rangers' season.

Shattenkirk has points in seven straight games (three goals, seven assists) after scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in his first 11. The Rangers have won six in a row after a 3-7-2 start and will try to keep their winning streak going when they play the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

New York is 8-for-19 on the power play during its winning streak. Shattenkirk has points on four of the eight goals and has been on the ice for six.

"Any skill player will tell you when you're having success on the power play it will drive the rest of your game," Shattenkirk said. "The ability to just get touches on the puck, positive touches, making passes and having a little time and space out there, it allows you to slow the game down in your mind. That was another thing coach Arniel really stressed -- that even though things weren't going well 5-on-5, to use the power play as a catalyst to get things jumpstarted for me."

Video: CBJ@NYR: Shattenkirk wires in PPG from the point

The Rangers power play has produced three game-winning goals, three game-tying goals and one go-ahead goal during the winning streak. Shattenkirk has one goal and four points on the power play in that time, giving him two goals and nine power-play points this season.

He's on pace to have 25 or more power-play points for a fifth straight season.

"The big difference in the last couple of games is the power play has been coming up big in key moments," center Mika Zibanejad said. "In the beginning of the year we had our power-play goals, but it didn't really get us anywhere to get momentum. There was still hesitancy in understanding where to go, where we are. It's been good now."

Part of the reason is because Shattenkirk, Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich have found chemistry up top on the first power-play unit.

Shattenkirk is the highest in the zone, quarterbacking. Zibanejad, a right-handed shot like Shattenkirk, patrols the left side, from the blue line to the goal line, always opening up for a one-timer. Buchnevich, a creative left-hand shooter, is on the right side, playing the half-wall.

Shattenkirk said it's a similar power play to what he was used to when he played with the St. Louis Blues and tried to set up Vladimir Tarasenko for one-timers.

The Blues finished eighth or better on the power play in each of the past four seasons. Shattenkirk was second among defenseman with 104 power-play points during that span, 10 fewer than Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson in 34 fewer games.

"I'm trying to bring a little of what we had [in St. Louis] to the team here," Shattenkirk said. "I think that's why we've been successful, because we've been shooting pucks and not trying to overdo it."

Video: NYR@FLA: Shattenkirk wires OT winner past Luongo

Zibanejad, who already has an NHL career-high five power-play goals in 18 games, said it's easier for him to take his one-timer because he's getting the pass from a righty. He had four power-play goals in 56 games last season when Ryan McDonagh, a lefty, was quarterbacking the power play.

"It's the angle of how the pass comes; I find it's a tougher angle from a lefty," Zibanejad said. "And, with a lefty opening up [to make the pass to the left side], people will cheat over because they know that pass is coming."

Zibanejad also played three full seasons in Ottawa with Karlsson, also a right-handed shot, but he said comparing Karlsson and Shattenkirk isn't fair because they use different tactics.

"Kevin fakes the shot a little bit more and Erik kind of waits them out, waits them out, waits them out and opens up with a pass," Zibanejad said. "Kevin is more open to shoot, so people collapse more than freeze. Erik gets them to freeze and then he makes that pass. I like both. Either you freeze the PK or get them to collapse. Ultimately, it's the same thing."

And ultimately, it opens opportunities for the power play to connect. Shattenkirk, who did it for years in St. Louis, has figured out how to do it now for the Rangers. It has changed his season. It has changed the Rangers' season.

"It's one of the things I told [Shattenkirk] when he was really struggling at 5-on-5; Play to your strengths and the rest will fall into place," Arniel said. "I told him all of his confidence starts on the power play, so build from there. He has."

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