The Rangers return to practice today following their 2-1 win over San Jose on Saturday. New York take on Los Angeles on Tuesday and Anaheim on Wednesday. Due to those back-to-back contests followed by a flight back home, today is likely the last practice until at least Friday. With a game Saturday and then one Monday, it’s possible today is the last practice the squad has until next week.
A few things I am looking to see today:
1) Line configurations
- do we see the 12 forwards remaining as they have been the last few games or do we get a change? Juliet Gauthier has earned his roster spot and been effective on the fourth line. I could possibly moving him up to the second line, but for now, I would keep him where he is especially since that final trio has shown signs of meshing together nicely.
2) Vitali Kravtsov-
I was working on this yesterday and Larry Brooks kind of stole my thunder on Kravtsov. Everything he writes is true. Why bother having him on the trip if he is going to be a healthy scratch? In addition, what’s the point in general of utilizing cap space for 23 rather than 22 players when two - Kravtsov and Ryan Reaves - are pretty much stapled to the press box?
You mean to tell me after everything the Rangers have endured with Kravtsov, two trips back home (one under contractual right), one suspension and four years of patience since selecting the Russian winger ninth overall in 2018, he is a healthy scratch so that a marginal fourth-liner can play?
I get it. This is not a development league and the Blueshirts find themselves in need of points, but again: Come on.
The Rangers not only have to find out if they have something in Kravtsov, who has played a sum of 52:28 this season, but they need five-on-five production from their top-six/top-nine. If he can’t get a chance, then what was all this for? And why are they wasting roster space and cap space on him?
Seattle just sent Shane Wright yesterday to the AHL for conditioning. If New York is not going to play Kravtsov in the short-term. then this should be an option. Part of this discussion would be convincing him that it’s a move to get him playing time in order to rebuild his conditioning with a specific end date in mind. Granted, the optics will be bad and he may not want to go down, based on prior history. But having him sit on the bench and/or rotate onto the second line in practice seems foolish.
Coach Gerard Gallant is unlikely to make a change after a win. As such, Kravtsov is more than likely to be a healthy scratch again. I don’t foresee a move happening while on the road, but maybe a change is made once back in New York.
Presuming good health, it’s time to place Reaves on waivers. The $1.75 million is cap space he is utilizing can be better served to accrue throughout the rest of the season to increase the possibility of a trade acquisition at the deadline. Reaves isn’t proving much on the ice, and while the locker room impact is tangible, is that enough to warrant a roster spot and cap space utilized?
3) Goalie starts
- Igor Shesterkin is clearly back on the beam. He has posted a 935 save percentage while going 3-0-1 with a 1.73 GAA over his last four starts. If not for that Vezina-esque performance, the team might have lost all four of those games.
The question then is do you go with Igor in both games of the back to back, or if only one, which is likely, which one? The Kings play more of a crash the jet style, possibly leading to more jostling. In addition, following Saturday’s game, where Igor had to be sharp throughout - physically and mentally - I wonder if Jarsolav Halak gets the nod Tuesday with Igor going Wednesday versus the Ducks. This is a swap from what I thought initially. But if you are not starting Igor both nights, this is the move I would make.