GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Even coming off a 6-2 win over the red-hot Buffalo Sabres Thursday, and ending a five-game losing streak, David Quinn couldn’t help himself. The Rangers coach, still searching for perfect combinations, tinkered with his lineup at practice Saturday, promoting defenseman Tony DeAngelo to the first power-play unit and dropping 18-year-old rookie Kaapo Kakko from the first line to the third.
DeAngelo replaced Jacob Trouba, who dropped to the second power-play unit. Trouba has a goal and five assists (three on the power play).
“I think Jacob's greatest attribute is his shot,’’ Quinn said. “But I don't think he's getting enough shots up there [at the point].’’
Quinn said Trouba, a righthanded shooter, will move from the point on the first unit, to the left wing circle on the second unit, where he will set up for one-timers, a la Alexander Ovechkin in Washington.
As for dropping Kakko, who played only 11:47 in Thursday’s game, Quinn said the move had more to do with wanting to put Jesper Fast back on the top line (he played there Tuesday against Arizona) than with dropping Kakko. However, the coach believes the move could benefit Kakko, who has one goal and one assist in his first eight NHL games.
“This will put Kaapo in a position where he won't be (playing against other) people's top lines,’’ Quinn said. “And it might give him a chance to have a little bit more success.’’
Quinn insisted the Rangers are happy with what Kakko has done so far, even if he hasn’t produced much in the way of offense. He said the Finnish star is still adjusting to NHL-sized rinks, the North American game, and living alone thousands of miles away from home.
“I'm sure some of the challenges he has, Jack Hughes (the No. 1 pick overall) doesn't have,’’ Quinn said. “Jack Hughes grew up around here. His family's here all the time. There's no language barrier; his daily routine hasn't changed much from where he was last year. Whereas, everything has changed for Kaapo.’’
Meanwhile, Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov, who on Friday left the Rangers’ Hartford farm team to return to the KHL, gave an interview to Russian sports newspaper Sport Express in which he sounded a little jaded at the experience of being sent down to the minor leagues, rather than make the Rangers’ opening night roster.
Speaking in Russian, Kravtsov, 19, said (according to Google Translate) when he was sent to Hartford, “I was told I’m not a (third- or fourth-line) player. Spending 5-6 minutes on the ice is pointless, and you need to go get experience at Hartford. It seems to me that these are the standard words of the coach for all players in such cases.’’
The reporter, Alexey Shevchenko, asked how it is that Brendan Smith, a defenseman, plays forward for the Rangers, ahead of Kravtsov. “So, he plays better than me,’’ Kravtsov said.
Kravtsov played in five games in Hartford, and had one assist. Per the terms of his contract, the Rangers can recall him at any time.
Notes & quotes: C Ryan Strome, who scored his first two goals of the season in the win over Buffalo, missed practice with the flu, but Quinn expects him to be available to play Sunday night . . . Quinn said Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal Sunday against the Bruins.