Shattenkirk has been particularly effective on the power play, one of the main reasons the Rangers coveted him. His skill was well-illustrated Saturday in a 4-2 comeback victory over the Edmonton Oilers, when his perfect cross-ice pass resulted in the tying goal by Pavel Buchnevich, who has scored seven times since Oct. 26.
“It takes time to adjust,” Shattenkirk said of the Rangers’ rocky start amid constant lineup experimentation. “I think that was the case for our whole team. But we didn’t panic and try to reinvent the wheel.”
Shattenkirk has found a steady groove since being paired during the winning streak with Brady Skjei, who is coming off a solid rookie season that included 34 assists.
“Being paired with Brady has helped me work on skating and getting involved more in moving up the ice,” said Shattenkirk, who was drafted in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2007, then played three years for Boston University. “That’s something that when I’m playing well, I’m doing.”
The Shattenkirk-Skjei pairing has steadied the back end for the Rangers and the confidence has filtered through the entire roster.
“We’ve got pretty good pairings going,” said Marc Staal, now the senior member of the defense since the veteran Dan Girardi was bought out after last season. “Kevin has played really well on the power play lately and that has transferred to his game five-on-five. He’s been real strong and a big boost for us.”
Starting with a 6-4 comeback victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 31, the Rangers reeled off overtime victories at Tampa Bay and Florida, followed by home wins over Columbus, Boston and the Oilers. Shattenkirk scored the overtime winner against the Panthers and has 10 points overall in a seven-game points streak.
The recent results have heartened Coach Alain Vigneault, rumored to be on the hot seat after the slow start, but neither he nor his team had showed outward signs of alarm. A productive Shattenkirk surely helps.
“He’s a lot more comfortable right now, you can tell,” Vigneault said. “I would say the last eight to nine games, he’s been a real solid for us at both ends.”
Shattenkirk was brought in as a weapon from the point. He and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, are the only two defensemen in the N.H.L. with 25 or more power-play points each of the last four seasons.
“Right off the hop, you saw the great talent he has in being able to get things done on the power play — the passing and getting his shot through at the right time,” Vigneault said.
Shattenkirk, who began to mark his mark in the N.H.L. after being traded from Colorado to St. Louis in February 2011, signed with the Rangers for four years and $26.6 million following a late-season trade from the Blues to Washington.
Skjei, 23, is happy Shattenkirk chose New York.
“He’s been an unbelievable help,” said Skjei, a first-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2012. “I love watching him play and learning from him. We have good chemistry and talk a lot on and off the ice.”
Now that the season and team are finding their balance, Shattenkirk said he felt more at ease as routines become predictable and any distractions of playing at home become easier to manage. He had more than 100 friends and family members, many wearing specially made T-shirts, at the Rangers’ home opener last month.
Maloney, the youngest captain in Rangers history, understands Shattenkirk’s transition from teenager to seasoned pro – though little has changed since he first met the motivated defenseman.
“He was always very skilled, well-liked, well-spoken and polite,” said Maloney, whose son Dan was a high school teammate of Shattenkirk. “He was a younger version of who is he is today.”
As his connection with Leetch has grown, Shattenkirk is eager to absorb advice from the Hall of Famer, who amassed 240 goals and 981 points over 17 seasons with the Rangers, including the Stanley Cup-winning campaign in 1994.
“I’ve had conversations with him and a few texts during the season and it’s obviously a treat for me to have that sort of relationship,” Shattenkirk said of his childhood idol. “It’s amazing because we think the game the same way.”
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