LAS VEGAS – After three games out and one game in, Brendan Smith was back out of the Rangers’ lineup Tuesday night against the Golden Knights. Tony DeAngelo, who had been scratched the previous three games, and six of the last eight, stepped into his spot. Freddie Claesson was the other defenseman sitting out.
“It’s tough,’’ Smith said being in and out of the lineup. “I’ve never had to do it before, where I’m in and out quite a bit. But I think I’m taking it in stride. I’m just trying to be positive, keep trying to help the team out, and when I get in there, try to play my best hockey. We’ve kind of got a little bit of a rotation here, so I’ve gotta keep playing hard and keep trying to help the team win.’’
Coach David Quinn has said all season the Rangers believe they have eight defensemen who can play. The depth came in handy when first Claesson, then Adam McQuaid, and finally Kevin Shattenkirk suffered injuries that kept them out for an extended period, but with all eight healthy now, two have to sit out every night.
The way things have evolved, five of the eight – Marc Staal, Neal Pionk, Brady Skjei, McQuaid and Shattenkirk_ have been in the lineup every night, while Smith, Claesson and DeAngelo take turns as the sixth defenseman.
Quinn, though, said that is not what is happening.
“No, I know it seems that way now, but that’s not how I look at it,’’ he said. “That’s kind of the way it’s been over the last, probably, three weeks, but that could change in the next week or two.’’
Hayes still out. Kevin Hayes missed his third straight game because of an upper- body injury he suffered on Dec. 14 that has been nagging him ever since. Hayes has not skated since his last game, Dec. 27 vs. Pittsburgh… LW Jimmy Vesey was set to appear in his 200th career game.