NHL: Rangers tinker with lines ahead of Panthers’ visit
At Saturday’s practice, the New York Rangers gave fans a glimpse at numerous changes to their lines.
Among those changes were stars Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad on a top line with Chris Kreider, and the return of the “Kid Line” of youngsters Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.
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Those combinations could show up Monday night when the Rangers host the Florida Panthers.
Those changes were unveiled in front of about 6,500 fans attending an open practice at Madison Square Garden, two days after the Rangers lost 3-1 on home ice to the league-best Boston Bruins. After the game, New York coach Gerard Gallant called out the performance of Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, a duo that has frequently played together this season.
After those comments, Trocheck practiced on a second line with checking forwards Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow.
“I’ve talked about our second line all year long about playing better, harder defensively, not giving up the odd-man rushes, and it continues to happen,” Gallant told reporters Saturday. “So I have to put somebody over there that is a little more (defensively responsible).
“When we go back and watch it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Gallant added. “But again, we gave them more than we should have. I’m just trying to make a little bit of balance and see where we go with it.
The Rangers are 14-4-2 in their past 20 games, including 7-3-0 at home since their 5-2 home loss to the league-worst Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3. If those are the combinations for the opening faceoff, it may take some time to develop chemistry due to limited shifts as linemates.
While Kreider, Zibanejad and Panarin seldom have been on the ice at the same time on 5-on-5 situations, Lafreniere, Chytil and Kakko have been linemates for 16 games, according to the website Natural Stat Trick.
Florida’s goalie situation has been in flux due to recent injuries. Spencer Knight has been out since Jan. 10 due to an undisclosed injury but was lent to the AHL team in Charlotte while Sergei Bobrovsky jammed his right foot early in Thursday’s win at Montreal.
According to Panthers coach Paul Maurice, Bobrovsky’s condition is less severe than originally feared, but he is unlikely to play Florida’s in back-to-back in New York and Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
With their two goalies out, Alex Lyon could get another start after making 29 saves in a 5-3 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Lyon also made 23 saves in relief of Bobrovsky against the Canadiens, and his two performances helped Florida improve to 7-2-1 since its 5-3 home loss to the Rangers on Jan. 1, including 4-0-1 in its past five.
“These are the kind of games you play for. We just had so many guys digging in,” Lyon said. “There were massive points on the line. This is fun, and where you test your true mettle. I enjoyed it.”
Despite another win, Florida added two more injuries as defenseman Aaron Ekblad and center Sam Bennett sustained upper-body injuries that may keep them out for Monday. Those injuries occurred after center Eric Staal landed on injured reserve due to a concussion.
“This is all a function of what we are going through, and I am shocked it did not happen before,” Maurice said.
–Field Level Media
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