Rangers Roundup: Gallant talks bottom six, Alexis Lafrenière wasn’t demoted, and more

The New York Rangers held practice in St. Louis today as they prepare to face the Blues on Thursday.

According to multiple reports, things were not going well and head coach Gerard Gallant halted the session and had his team do sprints. That little bit of drama aside, the Rangers should be good to go against the Blues, who may be without Pavel Buchnevich due to a possible concussion.

Igor Shesterkin is expected to back in goal after Alexandar Georgiev’s latest struggles.

Rangers’ Gerard Gallant talks bottom six

After practice, Gallant spoke about the team’s loss against the Wild. He stated that they needed to play a more north-south game against a very physical Minnesota squad. Gallant also harkened how that’s what they’ll have to do come playoff time.

While discussing the team, he focused on the bottom six forwards starting with Filip Chytil.

“You talk about Fil, is he better suited as a second line player? Probably, but he’s young and we’re set with our first two lines,” Gallant explained. “So take advantage of the opportunity you’ve got and right now he’s playing on the third line.”

The coach also noted that a lot of the issues with the lines are due to injuries. Starting with the loss of Sammy Blais to a torn ACL, whom Gallant said was not skating yet and accompanied the team on this trip by request. Blais played in St. Louis for several seasons before the trade and won the Stanley Cup in 2019 with the Blues.

“We’ve got a lot of guys out with injury, so the lines aren’t what they could be,” Gallant said. “The guys are filling in and working hard. Last night was a little disappointing but overall I’m happy.”

Another key injury is Kaapo Kakko out on IR and hopeful to return before the March 21 Trade Deadline. His return would place Hunt back on the third or fourth line. Also Kevin Rooney and Greg McKegg are out.

Morgan Barron may get a shot on Thursday to get back into the lineup.

Alexis Lafrenière was not demoted

new york rangers
Mar 2, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) attempts to pass the puck by St. Louis Blues center Robert Thomas (18) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As per usual, there was a bit of a hullabaloo about Alexis Lafrenière being replaced on the first line by Ryan Reaves against the Wild.

After the game, Gallant stated that the move was just give Mika Zibanejad’s line a little more size.

“Reaves has done it a couple of times for a few shifts this season,” Gallant reiterated on Wednesday. “That’s not his role. I put him there because they had Foligno and Greenway. It was big physical line against Mika’s line– I wanted to give them more room. You do it the odd time so it’s not going to happen a whole lot.”

What Gallant also made clear to everyone, including Lafrenière, is that he did nothing wrong and he’s very happy with the way he’s playing.

“Laffy’s played great and I told him that,” Gallant said.

Rangers assistant GM named to Team USA

Via NYR:

On Wednesday afternoon, USA Hockey announced that Rangers assistant general manager Ryan Martin has been named general manager of Team USA for the 2022 IIHF World Championships in Finland. In addition, Rangers Hockey Operations Advisor Mike Grier will be assisting in player personnel.

Congrats to both Ryan and Mike.

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