Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant gives instructions during the first...

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant gives instructions during the first period of an NHL game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant has begun gearing up for playoff mode with the media. In his pregame briefing Tuesday before the Blueshirts played the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden, Gallant declined to reveal which of his three injured forwards — who all practiced on Monday — would be returning to the lineup Tuesday.

“They’re all game-time decisions,’’ Gallant teased reporters. “I might as well get used to telling you nothing.’’

It turned out Andrew Copp and Filip Chytil, who both left Thursday’s win over the Islanders in the third period and then missed Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston, were back in, but Kaapo Kakko, out since suffering an apparent knee injury against Detroit on April 16, was not. Kakko missed his fourth straight game.

All three players had practiced Monday, though Kakko did not participate in the five-on-five scrimmaging.

Copp ended up leaving Tuesday’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury, but Gallant wouldn’t say if it was the same injury. He said it wasn't serious.

Showing some fight

The game got a little chippy in the second period. Barclay Goodrow fought Carolina’s Ian Cole in the second period, and after ex-Ranger Brady Skjei drilled his old teammate Mika Zibanejad into the boards behind the Carolina net in the final seconds of the period, Nino Niederreiter followed up by grabbing Zibanejad and trying to spin him down to the ice.

Adam Fox confronted Niederreiter and both players got roughing penalties with 4.1 seconds left in the period. After the period was over, Rangers enforcer Ryan Reaves went over to the Hurricanes bench and said something.

“I mean, the division title was on the line, I guess,’’ Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “I don’t think it was overly chippy.”

I think we’re a couple games away from the playoffs. It’s two very competitive teams. You know, there was a lot was riding on this game. So I mean, that’s what the playoffs are going to be like.’’

Blue notes

With Chytil and Copp returning, Julien Gauthier and Greg McKegg, who stepped in for them on Saturday, were scratched, along with forward Jonny Brodzinski and Ds Libor Hajek and Justin Braun. Braun, who was acquired at the deadline from Philadelphia, has played in seven of 17 games since joining the team … Before the game, the family of the late police officer Steven McDonald presented the Steven McDonald “Extra Effort’’ Award to forward Chris Kreider, the player voted by the fans as having gone above and beyond. 

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