Rangers coach chirps shirtless kid during tense Game 6 vs. Panthers

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve got to hand it to New York Rangers coach Peter Laviolette, he maintained his sense of humor and displayed a little grace under pressure during the first period of the must-win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

As Laviolette was being interviewed by ABC rinkside reporter Emily Kaplan during a play stoppage, a shirtless young fan was perfectly positioned behind the Rangers bench to steal the coach’s air time. The youngster was situated between Laviolette and Kaplan in the camera shot, flexing his muscles.

“How about this guy behind us?” Laviolette asked with a chuckle.

To which Kaplan had a quick quip of her own, knowing that these in-game interviews aren’t always a favorite of NHL coaches.

“He likes the interview more than you do,” Kaplan retorted.

Showing what a pro he is, Laviolette finished explaining why he moved Alex Wennberg up to right wing on the top line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. And then he turned to the boy and elbowed the glass between them before resuming his coaching duties.

Related: Jonny Brodzinski back in lineup for Game 6, Jimmy Vesey takes part in morning skate

Peter Laviolette juggles Rangers line combinations for Game 6 vs. Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Down in the best-of-7 series 3-2 and facing playoff elimination, Laviolette shook up his line combinations for Game 6. He explained in the interview with Kaplan that he moved Wennberg, who’s been the third-line center exclusively since being acquired from the Seattle Kraken ahead of the NHL trade deadline, to right wing on the top line because he believed Wennberg could get Zibanejad the puck in better shooting situations.

Zibanejad entered play without a goal in his past 10 postseason games. Plus, he and Kreider have gone through a litany of right wings on their line in the playoffs, including Jack Roslovic, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Artemi Panarin and Jimmy Vesey.

Chytil moved back to his natural position at center, taking Wennberg’s spot on the third line. He skated with Kakko and Barclay Goodrow, who entered the game with six playoff goals and moved up from the fourth line.

Jonny Brodzinski entered the lineup to play his first game of the series. He was on the fourth line with Will Cuylle and Roslovic. Matt Rempe was a healthy scratch.

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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