Rangers have plenty of tough decisions before regular season looms

Gerard Gallant has maintained all through coaching camp that he doesn’t put a lot stock into the primary handful of preseason video games, which he believes are meant for getting again into sport form, however the Rangers head coach mentioned the final two exhibition video games would be the closest lineups to what we will anticipate to see on opening night time at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

“We’re down to the nitty gritty,” Gallant mentioned Wednesday morning before the Blueshirts fell to the Bruins, 5-4, of their second-to-last preseason contest.

The Rangers have 28 gamers remaining and plenty of looming roster decisions to make. Goaltending is about, with Jaroslav Halak securing the backup function behind Igor Shesterkin after Louis Domingue was assigned to AHL Hartford this week. The closing spot(s) on protection look like between Libor Hajek and Zac Jones, who skated alongside Braden Schneider on Wednesday. Up entrance is the place you could find a majority of the question marks nonetheless hovering over personnel and line combos.

The ongoing auditions for the right-wing spot on the highest line subsequent to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider is probably going the place administration will focus essentially the most over the ultimate two exhibition video games. Four completely different gamers — Kaapo Kakko, Sammy Blais, Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey — have gotten a glance there between the preseason video games and coaching camp practices.

Kaapo Kakko skates in opposition to the Bruins through the Rangers’ preseason sport on Wednesday.
Getty Images

It doesn’t really feel as if any of the aforementioned gamers have made a major impression to formally snatch the job subsequent to the Rangers’ No. 1 heart and reigning main aim scorer, however none of them have gotten an prolonged alternative to, both. Vesey, who’s on an expert tryout and campaigning for his second act on Broadway, is the newest candidate getting a shot at filling the function.

“Honestly, it’s no different than [Vitali Kravtsov] playing with [Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck] right now,” Gallant mentioned. “We’re going to see what shakes out. At the tip of the day, after the final exhibition sport, we’re going to sit down down and have a tough dialog about the place we expect the most effective man will slot in every line. Maybe we’ll break up the third line, the Kid Line [of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kakko].

“Honestly, we’re not 100 percent sure yet. We’ve got a good feeling, but we’re going to wait and see how things shake out and hopefully, nobody gets hurt. Then we’ll put our lines together. People are getting opportunities.”

It wouldn’t be stunning if Lafreniere finally ends up beginning the season on the highest line, the place the 2020 first-overall decide spent a while firstly of final season. The Rangers have expressed confidence in Lafreniere’s capability to change to his off facet, as has Lafreniere himself, however there are different components to contemplate.

Bumping Lafreniere to the highest unit would break up the Kid Line, which was the Rangers’ most constant and efficient trio in final season’s playoffs. The children additional padded their case to stay collectively Wednesday night time with a couple of lengthy and significant shifts within the offensive zone. Kakko additionally scored two targets within the loss, one on a breakaway and one other across the internet to complete off a Hajek slap shot.

“Obviously, if they’re playing that way, I’d like to keep them together,” Gallant mentioned. “But we got to get the other guys going, too.”

Vitali Kravtsov
Getty Images

Additionally, using Blais or Goodrow in that spot would considerably shorten the Rangers lineup. The best state of affairs can be much like how the Rangers aligned on Wednesday, with Blais and Goodrow flanking the fourth line. Gustav Rydahl has had an excellent camp and centered that unit, however Ryan Carpenter’s penalty-killing talents could be the distinction between the 2 facilities the Rangers picked up within the offseason.

All indicators level to Kravtsov beginning on the second line with Panarin and Trocheck, who the Russian winger skated subsequent to Wednesday night time. Between the initiative Panarin has taken with Kravtsov and the quantity of time these three have spent on a line collectively this preseason, it seems the Rangers will attempt to give that unit each alternative to succeed.

“I can’t wait until I see the regular combinations and they’re going well and things are working well,” Gallant mentioned. “It provides you heaps of choices. The gamers we’ve received provides you heaps of choices as a coach. When I sit down with [Chris Drury] and his workers and also you’re a man like Rydahl, who we don’t know very properly, and a few guys that are available in right here and so they performed fairly properly and you bought tough decisions to make.

“It’s a good thing to have. But it’s also, as a coach, you’re happy with the way things went last year, we had a real good group of guys, but you’re trying to get better every year. So they’re making it tough. That’s what as an organization you’re happy about.”

Back to top button