ANAHEIM, California – Rangers lost two strikers on Friday, one to injury and one to the COVID-19 protocol. Dryden Hunt, who had played every game this season, was placed on injured reserve after suffering an upper body injury in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Julien Gauthier entered the COVID protocol.
To fill their roster spots, Rangers recalled strikers Jonny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger from the taxi team. Defender Zac Jones joined the taxi team.
Gauthier, the third line right winger, joined striker Artemi Panarin and goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin in the COVID protocol. Panarin, who went into protocol on Sunday, has served at least five days in isolation and can be approved to rejoin the team at any time now, provided he is symptom-free.
Panarin did not take the trip, but will join the Rangers if he makes a clear record. The team did not announce whether he had cleared protocol on Friday, but if he did, he could have traveled to Anaheim and could play as early as Saturday night.
Shesterkin went in on Thursday and should stay out at least until Tuesday, meaning he will miss at least the next two games on this roadtrip Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks and on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Juggling the roster
By sending Jones to the taxi team, Rangers leaves seven defenders on the active list: Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, Jarred Tinordi, Nils Lundkvist and Libor Hajek. (Patrik Nemeth was moved to non-guard status while dealing with a personal issue.)
Jones came into the lineup as Nemeth was unable to play on Sunday and Jones played well in his first two games. But he and Hajek had a tough night Thursday against the Golden Knights. Hajek was on ice for four goals against and Jones was on for three.
On Friday, Jones, Hajek and taxi team member Tarmo Reunanen switched in practice. Tinordi and Lundkvist skated together in what could be Saturday’s third defensive pair.
Gerard Gallant said Tinordi “is likely to go in” on Saturday.
“I love Tinner,” he said. “I had him before [with Florida]. Good character guy, works hard. He had a tough start. Yes he did. But he also never really gained any momentum here. He has played one match and out and two matches and out. So if he goes in tomorrow when we have to decide our lineup, then I have all the world’s confidence in him. ”
Gallant said he would prefer not to play Jones and Lundkvist – two small, offensive-minded rookies – together. The two played together on Sunday when Rangers were in play when Nemeth missed his first game, but after that Lundkvist came out of the row and Jones stayed inside. Gallant said Friday that he would prefer to partner Jones or Lundkvist with a veteran, perhaps one who is more defensive-minded and bigger.
“We want to develop people,” he said, “but the goal is to win hockey games.”
Lafreniere on the right wing?
Gallant was asked if Alexis Lafreniere’s play during Panarin’s absence has prompted him to consider switching Lafreniere from left wing to right wing to keep him on one of the top two lines.
“I think about it every other day,” he said.