GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Having seen his team at its best on Opening Night last week, Gerard Gallant doesn’t want to accept anything less. So as the Rangers practiced Sunday in preparation for Monday’s visit by Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano and the Anaheim Ducks, Gallant had a message for them.
“I want to see more like the first game against Tampa,’’ he said, referring to the 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday. “It was a tough trip. I mean, we played three games in four nights . . . but again, it’s no excuse.’’
After the win over Tampa Bay, the Rangers went on the road for back-to-back games in Minnesota and Winnipeg. They split those games, beating Minnesota, 7-3, on Thursday and losing to Winnipeg, 4-1, the next night. They come home to face a Ducks team that is 1-1 and was pummeled, 7-1, by the Islanders on Saturday.
“When you want to be with the big boys and you want to be a real good team, you’ve got to keep getting better,’’ Gallant said. “If we want to be an elite team, we’ve got to get better. We can’t give up [the] number of scoring chances we did the last two games and be successful.
“The first game was outstanding. We played great. We were exactly the way we want to be, and I want to see more of those games than the last two games.’’
Sammy Blais, who missed the first three games of the season with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup. Blais practiced Sunday on a third line with center Filip Chytil and right wing Jimmy Vesey.
Blais hasn’t played in a regular-season game since he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last November.
Barclay Goodrow, who had skated on the right wing of the third line in the last two games, likely will center the fourth line in place of Ryan Carpenter, who suffered a severe cut behind his left ear when he fell and was cut by the skate of Winnipeg defenseman Dylan DeMelo in Friday’s game.
Carpenter, who immediately left the game and did not return, is day-to-day. He did not practice Sunday.
Notes & quotes: Forward Vitali Kravtsov, who left the season opener with an upper-body injury and did not travel with the team to Minnesota and Winnipeg, practiced Sunday while wearing a yellow non-contact jersey. “He’s still day-to-day,’’ Gallant said. “That could change [Monday] morning. We’ll see where it goes. But it’s good to see him get out there and do some skating. And he looked good, actually.’’ . . . Asked to assess the performance of defenseman Libor Hajek, who played his first game of the season Friday, Gallant said, “He was probably like the rest of us: Just fair.’’ The coach added that he wasn’t singling out Hajek but rather saying the entire team was not great. “So I’m not disappointed in Libor any more than I’m disappointed in anybody else,’’ he said . . . Strome, who spent four seasons with the Rangers, is 1-2-3 in his first two games with the Ducks.