Rangers tough road trip starts with Vegas homecoming for Gallant and Reaves

The New York Rangers boarded a long flight to the West Coast in a position not many projected them to be in with among the highest point totals in the NHL.

Coming off an impressive back-to-back on home ice, the Rangers hope to keep the good times rolling Thursday when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights in the opener of a five-game road trip.

Of course, there’s an interesting side story as both head coach Gerard Gallant and forward Ryan Reaves are making a visit to an old home.

Gallant and Reaves set to return to Vegas

Gallant, 58, has had a great start to his coaching career with the Blueshirts. His team has won 22 games, which is the tiebreaker with the Washington Capitals for first place as each have 48 points.

“Seeing that buildin– the national anthem and the Knight thing comes up. Good memories obviously from that building,” Gallant reminisced. “It was good that we played the first game against this team in New York a couple weeks ago… I’m looking forward to (the game on Thursday).”

Gallant was let go early during the 2019-20 season, and harbors no ill feelings about the dismissal.

“You know what, the fans treated me A-1 here. I had a great time in my two and a half years,” Gallant said. “I’ll prepare myself for the game and it’ll be nice but it’s really about Ryan Reaves coming back here. Reavo is a fan favorite and he deserves that. So as a coach, it’s nice, but it’s not the same as a player. I’m hoping they have a big cheer for Reavo.”

ryan reaves vegas
Dec 4, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Ryan Reaves (75) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Reaves, 34, was battling for the Knights just last season. His memories are a lot more fresh and has been eyeing this date for awhile.

It’s good to be back… It was the first one I looked at when the schedule game out after I got traded,” Reaves admitted.

The Blueshirts acquired Ryan Reaves over the summer for a third round pick. Soon after, they extended the 34 year-old through 2022-23. The extension will be for the same AAV he will receiving this season at $1.75 million. Reavo, as he’s called by teammates has chipped in offensively with 6 assists in 30 games.

On whether or not he would drop the gloves with someone from his former team Reaves noted he wouldn’t shy away from it.

“I’ve never fought a friend,” he said. “I’ve been close. Me and Chris Stewart are really good friends and we almost went at it a couple of times but never did. I think if the game calls for it and one of them wants it, then by all means they can have it.”

Gallant smiled before ending his media session yesterday noting that the Vegas Golden Knights are the only team he’s never beaten as a coach. “It would be nice to win one,” he said.

Rangers ready to keep win streak going

New York is on a three-game winning streak after getting two wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The streak started with Mika Zibanejad getting the only goal of the shootout of a 4-3 win at Tampa Bay on Friday and continued with Zibanejad getting a hat trick in an impressive 4-0 win at home over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Zibanejad did not register a point Monday against the Oilers but heads into the road trip with six goals in his past six games.

Chris Kreider scored his 20th goal while Barclay Goodrow scored for the third time in three games and Ryan Strome produced his first three-point game this season, giving him 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past 13 games.

“The last few nights have been just a really good team effort all around top to bottom, (defense), forwards, goalies,” Strome said. “It’s been nice to see. I think maybe the (holiday) break did us well. The rink is buzzing. Guys are excited and happy. It’s a good feeling.”

The Rangers head into their longest road trip with 48 points, one behind Tampa Bay for the league lead. They gained their past two wins without leading scorer Artemi Panarin, who was placed in the COVID-19 protocol on Sunday and is unlikely to play Thursday.

Panarin’s absence likely means Alexis Lafreniere will take his spot on the second line, with Strome and Goodrow, after that group combined for three goals and four assists Monday.

Golden Knights looking to get back in the win column

Vegas earned a 3-2 shootout win at New York on Dec. 17 as its fourth win during a five-game winning streak. Since then, the Golden Knights are 2-2-1 in their past four games.

Vegas followed Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets by never leading in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. Vegas totaled 43 shots on goal but did not score until the final eight minutes of the game when William Karlsson and Shea Theodore tallied.

“They buckled down and really outcompeted us for long stretches early in that game, really pushed us to the outside of the rink, and won a lot of battles,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “We didn’t respond early enough or for long enough.”

Logan Thompson made 23 saves in his season debut. His services were required due to sudden injuries to goalies Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit, who may be unavailable again Thursday.

Lehner has not played since making 29 saves against the New York Islanders on Dec. 19 and could miss his sixth straight contest with a lower body injury. Brossoit made 27 saves against the Rangers last month but was unavailable due to an upper-body injury.

Vegas leads the all-time series 5-2, though it took a 5-0 loss in its last home meeting with the Rangers on Dec. 8, 2019.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this article