Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reacts in the first period...

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reacts in the first period of an NHL game against the Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

DALLAS – Two days later, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t ready to let go of his disappointment at the way his team had played in an ugly loss Thursday in St. Louis. At Saturday’s morning skate, where the team was preparing to play the Dallas Stars in the final game of the four-game road trip, Gallant hinted that he might make some lineup changes.

"Yeah, we might change a few things tonight,’’ he said. "We're not 100% sure of the lineup right now, to be honest with you, so we're going to look at some things and decide.’’

Gallant did change up the lineup, going to the 11-forward, seven-defenseman configuration he used in the first game of the trip, in Winnipeg. That meant he dressed defenseman Libor Hajek for the second time on the trip. Gallant didn’t say after that game whether he dressed seven defensemen because one of the top six was nursing some sort of an injury, but two games earlier, in the March 2 home game against St. Louis, Ryan Lindgren appeared to get banged up late in the game.

Gallant also inserted forward Greg McKegg, who missed the first three games of the trip due to a personal matter before joining the team in Dallas Friday. Forwards Ryan Reaves and Tim Gettinger were scratched. McKegg scored in the first period Saturday in Dallas.

Lineup changes aside, Gallant said he was more concerned with getting the players who were in the lineup to play better and harder than they did in St. Louis, where they lost, 6-2, and on Tuesday in Minnesota, where they lost to the Wild, 5-2.

"We’ve got to play better; we’ve got to play harder. That's all,’’ he said. "We’ve got to compete more for pucks and win those one-on-one battles a little more.

"We've given up too many chances the last two games, and haven't created enough,’’ he continued. "So that's the difference … Dallas is right in that bubble line right now, and they're playing desperate hockey. And I'd like to see our team play a little bit more like that.’’

Gallant had been upset at the way the Rangers had failed to protect the slot area against St. Louis, but he also had been bothered by the way the team started so slowly against both St. Louis and Minnesota.

"That's something that we were having a little trouble with earlier in the year,’’ forward Chris Kreider said of the slow starts. "And coming back from the All-Star break, (it was) something that we thought we had gotten better at. But yeah, the last couple of games, obviously the starts haven't been good. So, there's an understanding when you're playing a couple of desperate teams, teams that are in playoff contention, teams that are built to be heavy, and to grind -- and they're playing at home -- they're going to come out with a lot of (determination), and they're going to put pucks behind you.

"So for us, it's something that we did get better at a few games prior,’’ he continued. "Regardless (of whether) you're at home or on the road, the first five to 10 minutes it's (about) getting pucks behind their D, making them turn. I mean that's what those teams did to us the last couple nights.

"You're not going to come out and win the game in the first five to 10 (minutes), but you can certainly dig yourself a hole if you're not playing simple,’’ he continued. "Advancing the pucks; making them go 200 feet. I think that's a big part of playoff hockey. That's something that we need to dial in here.’’

More Rangers

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months