Five Questions with Kevin Shattenkirk

[ad_1]'s Q & A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs throughout the 2018-19 regular season. We talk to key figures in and around the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.

The latest edition features New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who is in the second season of a four-year contract I signed July 1, 2017.

NEW YORK — The mental break Kevin Shattenkirk got earlier in the season clearly worked for the New York Rangers defenseman.

Shattenkirk was a healthy scratch against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 11, four days after playing 7:29 in an 8-5 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was the latest blow for the 29-year-old, who fulfilled the dream of playing for his hometown team (Shattenkirk is from New Rochelle, New York) by joining the Rangers as a free agent July 1, 2017, only to miss the final 38 games of last season because the injured knee had been playing on since training camp required surgery.

But Shattenkirk has been arguably the steadiest defender of this season for the Rangers (13-10-2), even if his offensive production is not at the level he or anyone expects to be at, since watching one game from the box press.

Video: NYR @ DET: Shattenkirk nets top-shelf wrister for PPG

Shattenkirk has played in all 21 games since, averaging 19:08 of ice time. He has eight points (one goal, seven assists) and is plus-2 in that span.

Coach David Quinn noted the best part of his game is how he defending, especially down low, with confidence and strong body and stick position.

"He's almost back from a mental standpoint to being 100 percent, where he should be," Quinn said. "We're 20-plus games into it and I think it's very close to being the offensive player we know he's capable of being. He's had chances where we might just have not been opportunistic, but I'm certainly happy with the direction of his game overall. "

Shattenkirk clearly is too.

Here are Five Questions with … Kevin Shattenkirk:

You are not putting up the same numbers you have in the past and probably the numbers you expect from yourself, especially considering you averaged about 47 points per season in the four seasons before you got to New York. But I wonder how you feel about your overall game and if that is satisfactory?

"I feel it's probably close to the best I've been playing in my career I feel like on the defensive side of things I'm anticipating plays quicker, I'm skating a lot better I think that's really what has changed, I'm really trusting myself and my skating to have good gaps and do not worry about getting beat so much, to be a little bit more aggressive.That's what you have to do today because guys are so much faster and can get to their top speed so much quicker.Looking at the last couple games, I've had chances, offensive chances.When those are not coming that's when you really start to question yourself, but we're starting to find our groove on our power-play unit and once that starts to come along, that's when I really start the points. "

Is it a mindset change for you? I ask because when you got to New York and even before in St. Louis you had to hear it too, people saying your offensive game is there, the power-play numbers are great, but also wondering about your defensive game. Have you switched your mindset to focus on defending?

"Definitely not.No I think I've always known when I defended how well I do, how I've done it.I think with last year, with the injury and leading up to it, I was really, really guarding I'm jumping in rushes I'm jumping in rushes I'm jumping in rushes I'm jumping in rushes I'm jumping in rushes I'm jumping in rushes I'm just thinking with that zone in their defensive zone. That's always my mentality, to get pucks out of our zone quickly and join the rush. [Quinn] and [Rangers assistant] Lindy [Ruff], this year we've really just sat down and looked at some good and bad clips, and they've just distinguished this one by playing hard in the defensive zone and this is what we want to see out of you. That's been the clarification and the way we've been able to have an open forum is great. "

Video: NYR @ SJS: Shattenkirk buries backhander to earn SO win

Was coming back from your injury and surgery harder than you thought it was going to be?

"I think it was harder for me to accept that it was right there." Coming into the season I felt like there were no stones left unturned over the summer, that I did everything I needed to do in the weight room and on the ice.When you get to play speed you do that step you have to take.What was going on with me was not playing a game since January, I wanted to come back and have this huge comeback right away, the first five games, things are not always going that way for you or from the team perspective. It was very frustrating for me to not just have to fall into place, but it was another moment where I just needed to take a deep breath The game I sat out was huge. That was the moment where the two of them [Quinn and Ruff] just sat me down and said, 'Hey, look, this is what you're doing.' "

We hear that a lot about sitting out a game, how much it helps the player. Why does that make a difference? Why did you make a difference for yourself?

"The game before that in Carolina we went to seven 'D'. It never works and for whatever reason I was the guy that got the shaft. That was, one, kind of an embarrassing moment for me to be on the bench, playing That's when you take those two or three days to really look yourself in the mirror. I felt like I was maybe fooling myself a little bit and I just needed to watch a game. Sometimes when you watch a game and you put yourself in that situation from the top things seem a little bit easier, but it's slower and easier for you to comprehend it so when you go out there the next game you're able to put it into place. In that regard, it helped me. "

As a team, are the Rangers better than even the Rangers thought they'd be?

"I do not think we're better than we thought we'd be, I think we're the team that we expect ourselves to be. It's early in the season right now and we've talked about training camp and we are going to rely on our work ethic, and that's what we're doing. The skill that we have on the team, people do not give that respect, I think it deserves. We have a lot of good players on our team who can make it hard on teams night in and out, but when we do not work hard that's when we're going to be on the wrong end of things. Obviously, we're young and everyone talks about that, but the big thing for us is going forward now teams are going to know who we are. that's when it starts to get harder. That's where we're going to really figure out if we're the team that we think we are. "

Video: COL @ NYR: Shattenkirk beats Varlamov stick-side in SO


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