Filip Chytil, who struggles daily with an undisclosed lower body injury, missed a second game in a row on Thursday night when the Rangers faced the Blue Jackets at the Nationwide Arena – but the Czech winger may face the Wild on Friday in the Nationwide Arena. Garden.
Head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed that Chytil has not made the trip to Columbus as he is working his way back from an injury sustained in the first stint of the Rangers’ win over the Coyotes on Saturday.
Without Chytil, Morgan Barron has stepped into the middle role of the third line. The Rangers are also still without Kaapo Kakko, who is injured on reserve with an upper body injury that has sidelined him in the last three games. Gallant has therefore had to fill the right-wing vacancy in the top row alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
In the last experiment, the hefty Julien Gauthier flanked the Rangers’ All-Stars.
“There are some injuries,” Gallant said of putting Gauthier in first unit. “Obviously the guy who’s supposed to be there doesn’t play, so Gauthier gets the chance. He’s been a steady man, he’s played with a lot of different people in our lineup this year. I like his speed. He will have the opportunity to play with two of the best players on our team, they have very good seasons and I love what he brings.
“He brings speed, he is now playing a very good game. He has more confidence than earlier this year.”
When asked if he had a message for Gauthier ahead of his official top six debut, Gallant said he just wants the 24-year-old winger to play his game. And Gauthier has certainly not failed to notice how great an opportunity this is for him.
“I mean, it’s the first time I think I’ve been in the top six my entire stint with the Rangers,” he said. “So I think it’s quite exciting. Happy to play with those two boys [Thursday night] and see how it goes.”
Gallant had initially experimented with starting Artemi Panarin on the top line, but the coach eventually moved him back to the left wing along with Ryan Strome. Panarin has said he is most comfortable playing alongside Strome. Barclay Goodrow has filled in the right-hand spot on the second line.
Alexis Lafreniere was briefly bumped back into the top six before the game against the Kings on Monday, but that didn’t last long. The duo Panarin-Strome are apparently too established to risk breaking it to give Lafreniere second-line minutes.
So Gallant goes with Gauthier instead of Lafreniere, who stayed on the third line alongside Barron and Dryden Hunt. Lafreniere has not shown any promising ability to turn to his offside on the right, which is probably why Gauthier earned the highest point this time around.
“You look at guys like Mika and Kreids, every night they play the right way,” said Gauthier. “They do the little things that other guys don’t, which is why they’re so successful at it” [this] league, you know? Just trying to mimic what they’re doing and trying to keep up with their pace. You know, I’m a guy with a lot of speed, so that shouldn’t be a problem. But adjust, be in the right place and communicate with them, because you haven’t played together yet.”
Attacker Jonny Brodzinski and defender Zac Jones were recalled to the active roster before the game on Thursday. In a subsequent move, the Rangers assigned Tim Gettinger, Nils Lundkvist, Lauri Pajuniemi and Tarmo Reunanen to the taxi crew.