‘Never a doubt’ Rangers defenseman would play Game 1 vs. Panthers: report

Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite skipping some practices this week, reportedly there was no question Ryan Lindgren would play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.

The rugged defenseman told The Athletic that there was “never any doubt” he’d be in the lineup for the series opener.

According to Vince Mercogliano of Gannett, Lindgren “smirked” and replied “No” when asked by the reporter if there as ever any doubt he’d play.

None of this should come as a surprise. Lindgren is a warrior, who often plays when most others would, or could, not.

Of course, there’s been no reported injury for Lindgren this postseason and he’s played all 10 playoff games, averaging 20:36 in ice time per game. He took maintenance days this week but participated in the optional morning skate Wednesday.

There have been whispers that Lindgren’s defense partner, Adam Fox, may be banged up. He, too, has taken some practices off and his production is down — four assists in 10 games — but Fox still leads the Rangers in ice-time, averaging 23:25 per game.

When asked about his playing status, Fox chuckled Tuesday, answering “Good. Yeah. Ready to go tomorrow.”

Related: Filip Chytil ‘can’t wait to be out there’ as Game 1 lineup decision looms

Peter Laviolette weighs ‘balance’ in Rangers lineup decisions against Panthers

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette has been able to deploy each of his six regular defensemen through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, he’s weighed other lineup changes and decisions at the forward position, specifically in the bottom six.

That continues for the series opener against the Panthers. It appears Filip Chytil will draw into the lineup, to play left wing on the third line. That bumps Will Cuylle to the fourth line and means Blake Wheeler, Matt Rempe and Jonny Brodzinski each will be scratched.

It’s not a slam-dunk decision to reinsert Chytil. The 24-year-old did play in Game 3 of the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it was his first game action in six months after sustaining an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion Nov. 2. And he hasn’t played since, though all signs point to him being in there against the Panthers on Wednesday.

“You can only play so many players, so you have to make tough decisions as players become available,” Laviolette explained before Game 1. “You base it on how your team’s playing, how individuals are playing, what you might need in a series … with that there has to be a hole in the lineup, there has to be a spot for him. It’s a balance that we’re looking at as a coaching staff every day.”

For Chytil, it’s more simple than that.

“I can’t wait to be out there on the ice and enjoy that atmosphere,” Chytil said Tuesday. “But most importantly to give them (Rangers fans) the win tomorrow and start with 1-0.”

On the other side, Panthers coach Paul Maurice made it sound like Sam Bennett should be able to play Game 1 against the Rangers. The forward didn’t take part in an optional morning skate and has been limited to six games out of 11 so far in the postseason.

Like the Rangers, the Panthers have the usual bumps and bruises but appear to be by and large healthy for the best-of-7 conference final.

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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