Rangers’ Gerard Gallant provides update on Vitali Kravtsov; final roster; and Nils Lundkvist not a lock

The New York Rangers are headed into Boston and will continue to spend some time on the road according to Gerard Gallant. The team will be on a bonding trip before coming back to New York to face the Devils on Wednesday.

One player who won’t be there is Vitali Kravtsov.

Vitali Kravtsov injury update and some lineup notes

“He’s just day-to-day, he’s not making the trip with us,” Gallant said after the morning skate. “I don’t think it’s anything major and we will see when we get back from our bonding trip.”

The intent was to play Kravtsov both games, including tonight’s contest against Boston but that changed. Artemi Panarin will not play, but Gallant explained to the press that he along with most of the starters will play the final two preseason games next week. “That was the plan all along.”

Apr 6, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Vitali Kravtsov #74 of the New York Rangers prepares to skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at Madison Square Garden on April 06, 2021 in New York City.. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

“If you really look at it, the team was close to picked, like every other NHL team almost three months ago,” Gallant admitted. “We talked about playing for jobs, but there’s obviously 23 spots on your roster and probably 21 of those spots are already taken before we started.”

As far as tonight’s lineup, it appears Ryan Strome will be centering Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko. That’s followed by Kevin Rooney in the middle of Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves. The remaining six forwards will likely line up McKegg with Hunt and Gauthier; and Barron centering Cuylle and Pajuniemi.

The defense is a little more of a mix and match with Adam Fox not in the lineup. Instead it looks like the pairing of Nemeth and Lundkvist will return. Ryan Lindgren could be paired with Libor Hajek and Braden Schneider with Matthew Robertson, who is getting his first taste of preseason action.

Next Game: Tonight at Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG Network, NHL Network)

Nils Lundkvist not a lock?

Gerard Gallant took away any doubt, if there was any, about Patrik Nemeth making the team. What is still officially open is who his partner will be. When Gallant was pressed about Nils Lundkvist making the team, the coach said it would be unfair to call him a lock.

“Everybody that’s on the board is still available (to win that spot),” Gallant stated. “There’s a bunch of guys right there.”

Gallant is obviously talking about Lundkvist and Zac Jones, but I think Braden Schneider is getting consideration. Asked about Nemeth being a lefty, would rule out Jones, the head coach squashed that idea.

“We’re not worried about left or right, because Nemeth can play both sides.”

So it appears that there is at least one real battle left for opening night. Who will take it? I still feel it is Nils’ job to lose, but Jones is certainly mot making the decision easy.

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