Rangers head to Florida with taxi squad in tow; Kevin Rooney on COVID list

The New York Rangers last played a hockey game on December 17, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. They’ve had enough practice and are excited to get back to work tomorrow in Florida against the Panthers.

“There’s almost that energy at the beginning of the season where guys are chomping at the bit,” Chris Kreider said on Tuesday. “We’ve gotten to the point where we just want to play.”

Rangers ready to go against Panthers

“Enough practice,” coach Gerard Gallant said with a smile as the Rangers make their way to Florida.

Their opponent, the Florida Panthers actually had a longer layoff than even they did. Florida last played on December 16 in a 4-1 loss to the L.A. Kings.

“I don’t know what the first period is going to be like,” Gallant admitted. “It’ll be interesting to see because (the Panthers) are in the same boat. There could be some mistakes both ways or it could be a real good period. I don’t know what to expect to be honest.”

What Gallant can expect is to be without key 4th line center, Kevin Rooney. The gritty pivot was placed on COVID protocol today joining goalie Alexandar Georgiev along with defensemen Ryan Lindgren and Jarred Tinordi.

At his disposal will be the Rangers six-man taxi squad that was just announced today. However, the expectation will be for Greg McKegg to take Rooney’s spot in the lineup.

The taxi squad is comprised of three forwards, two defenseman, and one goalie as the Rangers opted to go with the max limit.

New York added four players who are waivers exempt in Zac Jones (D), Matthew Robertson (D), Morgan Barron (F), and Adam Huska (G). The other two forwards are Wolf Pack captain Jonny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger.

Using the taxi squad is like making a call-up from Hartford, if a player is waivers eligible he could be claimed.

Rangers looking forward to being on the road

rangers schedule
Nov 8, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) controls the puck in the second period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are certainly sick of practicing, but since both teams have had long layoffs being mentally ready to get going is the real challenge.

“It’s a good thing we’re on the road,” Kreider explained. “You have a really distinct schedule when you’re on the road. Having that routine leading up to gametime will certainly be helpful.”

Gallant is also aware of that fact but wants his team to find a way to get prepared.

“The last 30 games are gone,” Gallant emphasized about the extended break. “I want us playing good sound hockey and we were doing that over the last 20 games.”

It’s something that Kreider completely agrees with.

“I don’t think a whole lot has to be said,” Kreider said. “The general feeling around the group is everyone is excited to play hockey. We’re in a pretty good spot coming back from the break– We want to take advantage of the games in front of us.”

It’s been 11 long days since the Rangers played a hockey game. That wait ends tomorrow and summed up by the head coach beautifully.

“I’m looking forward to it and so are the players.”

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