Rangers coach David Quinn had said a few days ago that with the way his defensemen were playing, it was going to get to the point where he was going to have leave a player out of the lineup who didn’t deserve to be left out. Quinn re-inserted Brady Skjei into the lineup Wednesday against the Islanders after sitting him out the two previous games, and the deserving player who had to sit out was Brendan Smith.
“It’s really the first time this year a guy’s sitting who probably shouldn’t be,’’ Quinn said. “Every time we’ve sat a guy, up until this point, it’s been an easy conversation, because their play warranted it. I can’t say that about ‘Smitty.’ I thought he’s done a really good job since he’s back. No matter who I was going to tell he was going to be out deserved to play.’’
Smith, 29, played in the first 16 games before a costly turnover that led to a goal against Detroit Nov. 9 prompted Quinn to scratch him for the next three games. He came back into the lineup Saturday, replacing Skjei.
Georgiev starts vs. Islanders
Quinn said he opted to play Alexandar Georgiev in goal instead of Henrik Lundqvist because having to pull Lundqvist after two periods the last time the teams played last Thursday messed up his goaltending rotation.
“Just the way the game went – when we took Hank out last Thursday, I wanted to get him right back in,’’ Quinn said. “And that wasn’t the plan, but we wanted him to go against Florida, wanted him to go again against Dallas – that’s just how it kind of evolved.’’
Asked if Lundqvist could play, then, in both ends of this weekend’s doubleheader – Friday afternoon in Philadelphia and Saturday afternoon against Washington at the Garden, Quinn smiled.
“He could,’’ he said.
Vitali Kravtsov, the first of three first-round picks of the Rangers at the NHL draft in June, was chosen to play in the KHL All-Star game. Kravtsov, 18, has four goals and 12 points in 27 games for Traktor Chelyabinsk . . . Mats Zuccarello missed his sixth game in the last seven with a groin strain . . . The Rangers will practice Thursday at their training facility before traveling to Philadelphia.