EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – As the Rangers got back to work following a bad loss and a day off, coach David Quinn spun the wheel again and came up with even more new line combinations.
“It’s just trying to give guys opportunities and see who can mesh,’’ Quinn said after the Rangers skated at the L.A. Kings’ practice facility Saturday. “Obviously, the last game [a 4-1 loss Thursday to Chicago in the opener of a four-game road trip] was unlike any game we’ve played all year. One of the things that can happen over a long season, you can have stinkers. What do you do after you have one? Are you going to make it two in a row, or are you going to stop it? That’s something we talked at length about today.’’
In advance of Sunday’s matinee against the struggling Kings (2-7-1), Quinn elevated left wing Jimmy Vesey to the top line with center Mika Zibanejad and right wing Mats Zuccarello. The coach moved left wing Chris Kreider and right wing Ryan Spooner onto the second line with center Kevin Hayes. Quinn also put Vlad Namestnikov on the left of center Brett Howden with Pavel Buchnevich on the right, and dropped 19-year-old rookie Filip Chytil back to the fourth line, where he will center for left wing Cody McLeod and right wing Jesper Fast.
It was a lot of juggling of the forward lines, which Quinn said started with the decision to move Chytil – who is yet to score his first goal of the season – back to his natural center position after he spent the last five games as a left wing on Hayes’ line.
“One of the things I think has been happening to [Chytil] is he’s playing against everybody’s top lines, so that’s a little bit of a burden for a 19-year-old,’’ Quinn said. “I think he’ll skate more in the middle, and again, you’re trying things and seeing what can work. I think he’ll be better off getting back to the middle, so that was a domino effect with a bunch of things that happened.’’
With Chytil down in the lineup, Spooner, who has just one assist in nine games this season, gets a chance to play with Hayes – with whom he had some success last season after coming over from the Boston Bruins in the Rick Nash trade – as well as to get more ice time.
Hayes, who said he last played with Kreider eight years ago, when he was a freshman at Boston College, said the line-juggling doesn’t bother him in the slightest.
“There’s new lines every game, basically,’’ Hayes said. “We’re all good players. I don’t really switch my game too much when I’m playing with new guys. That’s the coaches’ decision to put guys together, and whoever I’m playing with, I’m happy to play with them. I can play with all the guys in this lineup.’’
Quinn said D Adam McQuaid, who left Thursday’s game with a lower body injury, is “day-to-day,’’ and he hopes to get him back sometime on the road trip. Tony DeAngelo, who has sat out six straight games, will take his place in the lineup. Quinn said he will wait to see how McQuaid is Sunday before deciding whether the Rangers need to call up a defenseman from Hartford on an emergency basis.