The Rangers apparently aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but new coach Gerard Gallant says they will be soon.
"I can confirm that the team will be fully vaccinated, definitely, before the first regular-season game,’’ Gallant said after his club finished up its second day on the ice Friday at its 2021 training camp.
With the NHL having opened training camps and the NBA close behind, vaccination is a big topic of conversation. NHL vice president Bill Daly said last week that "our information suggests 10 players or less will not be fully vaccinated by opening day of the regular season.’’
With vaccination status not a big issue, the Rangers can put their focus on getting the team ready to play when the season starts. Gallant’s men will open their season in Washington on Oct. 13.
Besides being the season opener, there will be plenty of drama surrounding the game against the Capitals. It will be the first time the teams have met since May 5, when the Rangers sought payback for Washington forward Tom Wilson’s brutal assault on Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich two nights earlier. There were six fights in that May 5 game.
The Rangers made massive changes to their team after that episode. Team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton were fired by owner James Dolan. Chris Drury, the new president and GM, fired coach David Quinn, hired Gallant and spent much of the summer acquiring tougher, grittier players.
One of those players is forward Ryan Reaves, one of the most feared enforcers in the NHL. Reaves — whom the Rangers got in a July trade after trying to sign him as a free agent in 2020 before he re-signed with Vegas — chuckled when asked if he thinks coming to the Rangers was years in the making.
"Since the free agency, when I signed a couple times in Vegas, probably 10 times a year, I see a lot of fans saying, ‘Let’s go get Reaves, let’s go get Reaves,’ " he said after Friday’s scrimmage. "So I told my wife one time, ‘You know what, I’m probably gonna end up in New York at some point.’ And here we are.’’
Reaves said he wasn’t acquired by the Rangers just to fight Wilson.
"I’m not here because of Tom Wilson,’’ he said. "I’m here because of what players like Tom Wilson bring to their teams in a way. You know, [the Islanders’] Cal Clutterbuck and [Matt] Martin, we know what they bring to their team. And you know, this is a big division that has some physical fourth lines.
"It doesn’t matter who the player is, what team it is. I’m holding everybody accountable.’’