Rangers scratch top-line forward, regular defenseman vs. Canadiens

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
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Jack Roslovic and Erik Gustafsson will be healthy scratches when the New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Coach Peter Laviolette confirmed the moves after the morning skate, emphasizing that it’s all part of a rotation with the regular season winding down and the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning in two weeks.

Matt Rempe will replace Roslovic in the Rangers lineup and Zac Jones is in for Gustafsson.

Laviolette stated several times recently that with everyone healthy, he’d have some difficult lineup decisions to make. Those comments were made, typically, in response to questions about the makeup of New York’s bottom-six forward group. To that end, the Rangers have toggled between scratching Matt Rempe, Jonny Brodzinski or Will Cuylle recently, except when Alex Wennberg missed one game due to the birth of his daughter.

But each of those forwards will play against the Canadiens and Jimmy Vesey will move up from the fourth line to replace Roslovic on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

“There’ve been some really good games where’ve they’ve been really noticeable as a group of three,” Laviolette said about Roslovic, Kreider and Zibanejad. “For me, it’s the speed and the puck possession when they’re on top of it.”

While that move is a bit of a surprise, less so is Jones slotting in for Gustafsson. Jones recently played 13 straight games when the injury bug claimed Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and Gustafsson from the Rangers blue line. The 23-year-old excelled with the extended opportunity, the most games he’s ever played consecutively in the NHL, and it’s been debated in some circles whether he or Gustafsson is the better fit on the third pair with Braden Schneider.

“‘Gus’ has been great all year,” Laviolette explained. “Jones, give him a game. And we’ll move on to the next one after that.”

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Jack Roslovic, Erik Gustafsson scratched for Rangers against Canadiens

NHL: New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings
Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Roslovic had played all 15 games since being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets right before the March 8 trade deadline. He’s been the primary right wing on the line with Zibanejad and Kreider, and has provided some speed to that line, if not much 5V5 scoring.

The 27-year-old, who’s a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, has seven points (two goals, five assists) and is averaging 13:57 in ice time since coming to New York. He had 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) and averaged 16:33 in ice time with the Blues Jackets in 40 games before the trade.

Roslovic played only 14 shifts and 8:07 in a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. However, Laviolette said not much should be read into that because he was simply trying to give more shifts to the bottom six since they were playing so well. Barclay Goodrow scored twice in that win and Cuylle added his 13th of the season.

Vesey has moved up and down the Rangers lineup all season. Recently, he’s been a fourth-line checking staple, but Vesey has also played on the third line and top line, including after Blake Wheeler was injured in February up until Roslovic was acquired.

Kaapo Kakko, who’s play had trended upward recently, could have been an option to bump from the third line to the first against the Canadiens. But he will remain with Wennberg and Cuylle. Kakko has points in five of his past six games, including three goals in his past five.

Rempe will play for only the second time in the past six games. Most recently, Rempe was part of a line brawl at the start of New York’s 4-3 win against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. So, he’s played all of two seconds since March 26.

Gustafsson played the past two games after missing four straight with an upper-body injury. He has 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in 72 games.

Jones has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 30 games.

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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