The Rangers kick off their first road trip of the season with a pair of games in Pittsburgh, beginning Friday night, before heading to Buffalo for another two.
“Obviously, when you have a crowd in the building it changes the whole dynamic of the game, I think it will make a little bit of a difference,” head coach David Quinn said Wednesday. “But hopefully one of the things we were pretty good at the second half of the year, we were a pretty good road team. If we can continue that trend that we kind of started last year.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the 2019-20 regular season last March, the Rangers had posted a 10-1-1 record in their last 12 away games. In the condensed 56-game schedule this season, the Rangers are set to play 28 times on the road.
While the NHL realigned the divisions to reduce travel, there are lots of protocols put in place to limit players’ interactions with not only the public, but also each other. The Capitals were fined $100,000 Wednesday after a group of players gathered in a hotel room without wearing face coverings.
Shortly after that, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov were placed on the league’s list of players who were unavailable to play or practice in accordance with their coronavirus guidelines. All will miss at least Washington’s next four games.
Quinn said the Rangers’ coaching staff had addressed the Capitals’ fine and reiterated how important it is to follow the protocols on the road this season.
“We’ve obviously addressed what happened with Washington, we’ve talked about it as a team [Thursday],” he said. “Certainly when we get to Pittsburgh, we’ll remind them of the specifics and go through all the protocol when we get to Pittsburgh as well.”
Artemi Panarin took to Instagram on Thursday to show his support for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ahead of planned protests in his native country this weekend.
The star winger posted a photo of Navalny, his wife and their two children, with a caption that translated to: “Freedom for Navalny.”
A well-known critic of Russian president Vladamir Putin, Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent in August and spent his recovery at a hospital in Germany. When Navalny returned to Russia on Sunday, he was immediately arrested and sent to a Moscow detention facility, where he is set to await trial for allegedly violating the terms of his probation from a 2014 embezzlement case.
Blackhawks defenseman and fellow Russian Nikita Zadorov reposted Panarin’s pro-Navalny message Thursday.
Igor Shesterkin will start in net for the Rangers on Friday against the Penguins.
Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier took some reps as a fourth line in practice Thursday. But Kevin Rooney later replaced Gauthier and centered Lemieux and Howden, with Colin Blackwell rotating in.
“It’s a decision we haven’t made yet,” Quinn said of the fourth line. “Julien obviously shows a lot of great characteristics, he’s big, he’s strong, he can skate. I just think he’s still learning the NHL game, systematically, understanding certain situations, he puts a lot of time and effort into it.”
The Rangers assigned Morgan Barron and Matthew Robertson from the taxi squad to team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford. The Wolf Pack’s training camp is already underway.
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