Gerard Gallant plays 11 forwards, 7 defensemen for first time this season
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Rangers coach Gerard Gallant pulled a surprise Sunday night against the Jets when he dressed a lineup featuring 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time this season.
Gallant inserted defenseman Libor Hajek into the lineup for the first time since Feb. 1, the last game before the All-Star break. Hajek had been scratched for eight straight games.
"Libor hasn’t played in a while, and he’s played good when he was in there,’’ Gallant said when asked about the unconventional lineup. "So we just thought we’d manage some minutes . . . coming on the first game of a road trip. And it went OK. I mean, nobody loves playing seven D, but I think it worked out fine.’’
Hajek essentially split time with Patrik Nemeth on the third defense pairing, taking turns partnering with rookie Braden Schneider. Hajek played 10 shifts for a total of 7:52 with one shot on goal. Nemeth played 12:48, though some of that came on the penalty kill.
Up front, Gallant gave heavy play to his top three lines and double-shifted his three centers into the fourth line, between wingers Tim Gettinger and Ryan Reaves.
Second-line center Ryan Strome played 22:03, the second-most of any player, behind defenseman Adam Fox (22:13).
Gallant said he wasn’t sure if he will use the 11-and-seven look again soon.
McKegg isn’t on road trip
Rangers forward Greg McKegg, who played in 26 consecutive games before missing Friday’s victory over the Devils, did not travel with the team on the four-game trip because of "personal reasons,’’ Gallant said.
Jonny Brodzinski, who was called up from Hartford on Wednesday, took McKegg’s spot in the lineup Friday and again Sunday.