A few days after coach David Quinn said someone in the lineup would need to slip up to create a lineup opening for forward Vitali Kravtsov, the coach decided Saturday that it was time for him to make his Rangers debut.
"He’s been practicing well, he’s got enough time with us here, and I just thought it was a good time to get him in,’’ Quinn said before the Rangers finished back-to-back games in Buffalo with a 3-2 shootout loss.
Kravtsov has been practicing with the team since March 24 after completing his COVID-19 quarantine after coming over from Russia. But with not a lot of practice time to learn the Rangers’ systems, and with Quinn having been out for a portion of that time because he and most of the coaching staff had COVID-19, Kravtsov had to wait a bit before getting the call.
The Rangers’ ninth overall pick in 2018, Kravtsov played in the KHL this season, on loan to Traktor Chelyabinsk. He scored 16 goals in 49 regular-season games and had two goals and two assists in five playoff games.
Kravtsov, 21, took a spot on the right wing of the Kid Line with Alexis Lafreniere, 19, and Filip Chytil, 21.
He played 10:45 and had three shots on goal, including one in which he had a diving shot attempt on a rebound, sweeping the puck toward the goal with 1:58 left and the score tied 2-2. Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark, however, made a diving save.
Quinn was asked what message he typically gives to a player making his NHL debut. "It’s a little bit different today because there’s not 18,000 people in the building, so it is a little bit of a different experience,’’ he said. "But to me, they’ve played hockey their whole lives; the game doesn’t change much. It is a National Hockey League game, but he’s been preparing for this his whole life.
"And the number one thing you want them to do is enjoy it, and you know there will be nerves, that they’ll go away quickly once you get a couple shifts under your belt, but don’t try to do too much.’’
Ryan Strome’s point streak ended at a career-high 11 games and his assist streak ended at 10, which tied him with Rod Gilbert for the second-longest assist streak in club history behind Brian Leetch’s 15 . . . Forward Phillip DiGiuseppe was a healthy scratch.