Rangers lose forwards Dryden Hunt (injury) and Julien Gauthier (COVID-19 protocol)
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rangers lost two forwards Friday, one to an injury and one to 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 went into COVID protocol.
To fill their roster spots, the Rangers recalled forwards Jonny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger from the taxi squad. Defenseman Zac Jones was assigned to the taxi squad.
Gauthier, the third-line right wing, joined forward Artemi Panarin and goaltender Igor Shesterkin in COVID protocol. Panarin, who went into protocol Sunday, has served the minimum five days in isolation and could be cleared to rejoin the team any day now, provided he is symptom-free.
Panarin did not make the trip but will join the Rangers if he does clear protocol. The team didn’t announce whether he had cleared protocol on Friday, but if he did, he could have traveled to Anaheim and could play as soon as Saturday night.
Shesterkin went in on Thursday and must stay out at least until Tuesday, which means he will miss at least the next two games on this road trip on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks and on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Juggling the roster
Sending Jones to the taxi squad leaves the Rangers with seven defensemen on the active roster: Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, Jarred Tinordi, Nils Lundkvist and Libor Hajek. (Patrik Nemeth was moved to non-roster status while dealing with a personal issue.)
Jones entered the lineup when Nemeth was unable to play Sunday, and Jones played well in his first two games. But he and Hajek had a rough 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 squad member Tarmo Reunanen alternated in practice. Tinordi and Lundkvist skated together in what could be Saturday’s third defense pair.
Gerard Gallant said Tinordi is "probably gonna go in’’ 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 never really got any momentum here, either. He’s played one game and out and two games and out. So if he goes in tomorrow when we’re deciding our lineup, then I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.’’
Gallant said he would prefer not to play Jones and Lundkvist — two small, offensive-minded rookies — together. The two played together Sunday, when the Rangers were scrambling as Nemeth missed his first game, but after that, Lundkvist came out of the lineup and Jones stayed in. Gallant said Friday he’d prefer to partner Jones or Lundkvist with a veteran, maybe one who is more defensive-minded and bigger.
"We want to develop people,’’ he said, "but the number one goal is to win hockey games.’’
Lafreniere at right wing?
Gallant was asked if Alexis Lafreniere’s play during Panarin’s absence has made him consider shifting Lafreniere from left wing to right wing to keep him on one of the top two lines.
"I think about it every second day,’’ he said.