McLeod in, Namestnikov out for Rangers against Sabres?
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It’s one game into the season for the Rangers, but coach David Quinn looks ready to make changes following a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on opening night Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
At practice Friday, before the team flew to Buffalo for Saturday’s matchup against the Sabres, Quinn tinkered with his forward lines, putting veteran Cody McLeod, who did not play in the opener, on the fourth line in place of Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov was the extra forward in practice, though Quinn said he hadn’t decided yet whether he would be making the switch or not.
“We’re just kind of trying things, we’ve got 13 forwards," the first-year coach said. "So we’re just moving things around a little bit. We’ll make that decision [Saturday].’’
Namestnikov had skated on the left wing with center Brett Howden and right wing Vinni Lettieri against Nashville, and he had the fewest shifts (13) and the least ice time (9 minutes, 35 seconds) of anyone. Howden, a 20-year-old rookie playing his first NHL game, played 14 shifts and 10:32, and Lettieri played 15 shifts and 10:41.
Quinn didn’t single Namestnikov out for criticism, but when asked if he would hold NHL players accountable in a different way than he would the college players he coached at Boston University he answered, flatly, “No.’’
“I don’t think so,’’ he said. “This is life, you know? You’ve got to be held accountable.’’
Namestnikov, 25, was acquired by the Rangers from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline last season in the deal that sent captain Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to the Lightning. The Rangers also got Howden in that deal, as well as defense prospect Libor Hajek, a first round draft pick, and a conditional second round pick. Namestnikov had been having a career year at the time of the trade, having scored 20 goals and 44 points in 62. He scored a goal in his first game with the Rangers, but managed just two goals and four points overall in 19 games after the trade.
Notes & quotes: Quinn said Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal Saturday vs. Buffalo, and backup Alexandar Georgiev is likely to play Sunday in Carolina vs. the Hurricanes . . . Quinn on his former BU star Jack Eichel, named captain of the Sabres at 21 years old. “I’m not surprised. I don’t know the ins and outs of that organization. Obviously, they feel he’s ready for it. It’s a huge responsibility. I’ve seen Jack grow an awful lot off the rink the last few years. I knew eventually it was going to happen.’’