The New York Rangers returned to practice today after a day off, preparing for a showdown with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers are only two points behind first place Carolina after the Canes beat Anaheim on Sunday. A Blueshirt win will pull them into a tie with them. As Gerard Gallant put it, “It should be fun.”
One thing Gallant said that was interesting was that when he took over, while he assumed the team would be contending for a playoff spot, first place is a surprise. “It doesn’t surprise me now but you would said that at the start of the season, I would have said no, that wouldn’t happen. Before the season started, out goal was to make the playoffs like every other team. I legitimately thought we had a real good chance to make the playoffs. If you woulda said do you think you’ll be battling Carolia for first place…at that time I probably would have said that’s not our goal but it is now. Things change during the season.”
Other than that, Gallant reiterated his season long message, they want to win every game and will take it “one day at a time.”
The return of Kakko and Rooney
Gallant was very pleased with the play of Rooney and Kakko. He said that Kakko “I though he as real good….Kaapo had a couple real good shifts down low where he spun off guys and made some plays, I thought they played really well for the first game back. Better than I expected.”
Both players were happy that they were able to come back for the clinching game. Kakko said that he was able to keep skating so he said he is actually stronger. He also said that watching games was helpful. “Watching the games, you can learn, I think I’m a little better right now.”
When asked about the newcomers and the increased competition for playing time, both Rooney and Kakko said that that it doesn’t matter since the team is better.
The playoff picture
As mentioned, Carolina beat the Ducks on Sunday 5-2. Pittsburgh also won 3-2 over Nashviille in overtime while Washington beat Boston 4-2.
In some late breaking news, Evgeni Malkin was suspended four games by the NHL for cross checking the Predators’ Mark Borowiecki in the game on Sunday. Look at this:
So, while the Rangers are still likely to meet the Penguins in the first round, the Caps are not out of it yet with two games in hand on Pittsburgh. Now, the Pens have to play without Malkin for four games. Not the smartest play.
Here’s the Met Division standings:
- Carolina 102 points – 9 games left
- Rangers 100 points – 9 games left
- Penguins 94 points – 8 games left
- Capitals 90 points – 10 games left
If the Rangers can overtake the Hurricanes, there’s a big question of who they would face in the first round.
Besides the Rangers’ game with Carolina, the Islanders host the Penguins and the Flyers visit Washington. No games of note are scheduled for Monday.
The Kravtsov question
Vitali Kravtsov is available to come back to the United States. His Traktor Chelyabinsk team was eliminated in the fifth game of the the Conference Finals against Metallurg Magnitogorsk on a goal with only 15 seconds left in regulation.
With a final score of 2-1, Kravtsov didn’t get on the scoreboard for Traktor’s only goal.
In 15 playoff games, Kravtsov led Traktor with seven goals and added three assists for 10 points. That was good for second best on the team. He averaged 16:58 minutes per game and finished with 33 shots on goal, four power play goals and two game winners.
His seven goals was second most among all KHL players in the playoffs this season. He finished with a plus/minus rating of -3.
There has been no word from the Rangers organization about Kravsov’s immediate future. He is under contract this season to the Rangers and is a restricted free agent this summer. In all likelihood, his hockey season is over.
If the team wanted to bring him back, the Hartford Wolf Pack have six games left before their regular season ends on April 24. They are fighting for a playoff spot so he could join them for the playoff run.
With the acquisition of Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp, plus he return to the lineup of Kaapo Kakko, there is no real need for the team to add Kravtsov to their lineup.
Again, there had been absolute silence from the Ranger organization regarding Kravtsov. If they don’t try to get him back in time to help even the Wolf Pack, it could mean he still has a future with the team. In all likelihood, he will be traded this summer.
The good news for the Rangers is his playoff performance will increase his value. If he is a goner, this whole situation has to be classified as a total disaster.
The Wolf Pack
Speaking of Hartford, the Wolf Pack snapped a seven game losing streak with an overtime win over Charlotte. Based on points percentage they are in a playoff spot,but trail Bridgeport by a point but have played fewer games. After sitting near the top of the Atlantic Division standings all season, the team has dropped precipitously in the standings.
Losing Jonny Brodzinski and Morgan Barron hasn’t helped. The goaltending tandem of Keith Kinkaid and Adam Huska hasn’t been stellar either.
The Pack has six games left to make the playoffs with the final game of the season less than two weeks away.