Matt Rempe, Erik Gustafsson likely back in Rangers lineup vs. Devils

NHL: St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers are expected to welcome Matt Rempe and Erik Gustafsson back into the lineup Wednesday when they host the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

However, coach Peter Laviolette would not commit to any lineup changes when speaking with reporters after the optional morning skate.

“We’re still working through things in the room right now,” Laviolette explained.

Rempe has been scratched the past three games but skated on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey at practice Tuesday.

“When Matt comes back, we want him to play his game. It’s that simple,” Laviolette stated.

Since the rugged rookie was suspended four games for elbowing Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler on March 11, Rempe was scratched one game, played three straight and then was scratched the past three.

Gustafsson missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, sustained when the defenseman was hurt against the Florida Panthers on March 23. His return means the Rangers would have each of their six regular defensemen in the lineup at the same time for the first time since March 4.

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Rangers could have Matt Rempe, Erik Gustafsson back against Devils

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Defensemen Zac Jones and Chad Ruhwedel and forward Jonny Brodzinski stayed on the ice for conditioning after the morning skate, meaning each likely won’t play against the Devils. The surprise here is Brodzinski, who skated on the third line at practice the day before and has been praised recently by Laviolette for his effective play.

“He skates fast, he makes plays, the line has been effective,” Laviolette explained. “I really like the way Jonny has played. At some point tonight, I’m going to have to take 22 [skaters] and get it down to 18. And that’s that.”

If Brodzinski is scratched for the first time in six games, then Will Cuylle will remain in the lineup. Cuylle appeared to be the odd man out during practice Tuesday, but has played well on the third line with Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko, too.

Jones has played 13 games in a row, the longest stretch in his NHL career, and the 23-year-old has thrived. But with Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba returning from injury the past two games, and now Gustafsson apparently ready to go, Jones will lose his lineup spot.

“I know ‘Lavi’s’ got difficult decisions to make,” Jones told “We’ve got a really good team here and guys have to sit. It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Inserting Rempe into the lineup against the Devils is not a big surprise. It’s expected to be a physical game, especially after New Jersey’s terrible loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Then there’s the Rempe’s past history with the Devils to consider.

The 6-foot-8 forward has played two games against the Devils so far and was ejected from each, leaving an injured New Jersey player in his wake each time. On Feb. 22 at Prudential Center, Rempe totaled 17 penalty minutes and was kicked out of the game for a hit on Devils forward Nathan Bastian. And on March 11 at MSG, Rempe was assessed a match penalty for elbowing Siegenthaler.

Despite his suspension, the Devils remain hot that Bastian and Siegenthaler each has missed considerable time with injury.

“I think Rempe has done a great job providing a physical presence in all the games he’s played in, not just to talk about the New Jersey Devils,” Laviolette said. “There are some games where we feel like a heavier presence can be needed, so we’ve used him in those games. And he’s done an excellent job.”

Reading between the lines, it’d seem likely Rempe is in Wednesday against the Devils.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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