New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault doesn't need to know that Mats Zuccarello is on a seven-game point streak to know how effective he's been in the past two weeks. For Vigneault, Zuccarello's competitiveness in one-on-one battles speaks volumes for how he's playing.
"When he's at his best he's really hungry on those loose pucks and it seems like he's winning all those foot races, and it doesn't matter the size of the opponent, the strength of the opponent," Vigneault told NHL.com during a phone interview Friday. "He seems to be able to win those one-on-one battles and from there things open up, whether it be one of his teammates or a lane to the net or a shooting lane. That's what he's been doing much better here for the last seven games."
Zuccarello has nine points on four goals and five assists in the past seven games. He had one point, an assist, in his previous seven games and 23 points on seven goals and 16 assists in his first 44 games this season.
Vigneault said Zuccarello's scoring problems earlier this season were a combination of him not being around the puck enough and being somewhat snakebit. Now he's around the puck all the time and back to being the scorer he was for the Rangers last season, when he had a team-high 59 points, including 24 in the final 25 games.
"He's back to playing the way he was last year, very confident with the puck and making plays," Vigneault said. "You see he's on top of his game when he's beating people for loose pucks, making plays in small areas. He's back to how he was last year."