Vladimir Namestnikov will be a healthy scratch for the Rangers when they take on the Sabres on Saturday night. Namestnikov started Thursday’s season opener on the fourth line and will now be benched in favour of Cody McLeod.
Rangers’ head coach David Quinn said the decision is more indicative of McLeod’s play than Namestnikov’s. McLeod had just two points in 25 games for the Rangers last season.
“[He brings] just a little more pace and energy,” said Quinn. “Cody had a good camp, and you want to reward him. So, put him in there, and hopefully he continues to build on what he did in training camp.”
Regardless of what you make of McLeod, choosing to sit Namestnikov in his favour is puzzling. The Rangers signed Namestnikov to a two-year, $8 million contract extension on July 1. He was originally acquired from the Lightning last season as part of a package for defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller.
Namestnikov spent the majority of his time in Tampa Bay on the top line, making his inability to hold down a spot in a lesser Rangers’ lineup all the more bizarre. He played over 700 minutes with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov last season. Unsurprisingly, Namestnikov’s production fell off considerably after being traded to the Rangers. He had just four points in 19 games with New York after posting 20 goals and 24 assists in 62 games with the Lightning.
Miller picked up right where Namestnikov left off in Tampa Bay, much to the chagrin of Ranger fans. After registering 40 points in 63 games with the Rangers last season, Miller produced at a near point-per-game pace down the stretch in Tampa. He scored ten goals and added eight assists in 19 games and is expected to occupy Namestnikov’s old spot on the top line on Saturday.
Thankfully for Namestnikov, he might not have to wait long to get back into the lineup. The Rangers are set to take on the Hurricanes in Carolina on Sunday.