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Vitali Kravtsov's injury could give Julien Gauthier a chance for extended ice time

Rangers defenseman Tarmo Reunanen becomes entangled with Devils

Rangers defenseman Tarmo Reunanen becomes entangled with Devils goaltender Jonathan Bernier during the third period of an NHL preseason game Friday in Newark, N.J. Credit: AP/Bill Kostroun

NEWARK — For most of training camp, it appeared as though the Rangers’ team was already picked. The top 11 forwards were pretty easy to identify, the top seven defensemen seemed obvious, and the top two goalies were set in stone.

But injuries could change things.

Forward Vitali Kravtsov, who had seemed set to start the season on the third line, with Filip Chytil and newcomer Barclay Goodrow, left Friday’s 7-1 preseason loss to the Devils at Prudential Center after the first period with a lower body injury. After the game, coach Gerard Gallant downplayed the severity of the injury.

"I don't think it's too serious,’’ Gallant said. "It bothered him enough that he couldn't play, but I don't think it's anything long term.’’

That would be the best news for the Rangers on a night when, for the second time in three preseason games, they were non-competitive. They have been outscored 13-4 in the preseason.

"It's not good,’’ Gallant said. "I mean this group played the first game [a 4-0 loss Sunday vs. the Islanders] and didn't play very well, and again back tonight. You’ve got to be ready to play these games. They don't mean a lot in the standings, obviously, but they mean a lot when we're evaluating players.’’

The Rangers play again Saturday in Boston against the Bruins, and generally, it will be a different group. However, with only 34 players in camp, a handful of guys who played Friday will have to dress Saturday.

"It will be a few of these guys playing again, but for the most part it will be different group,’’ Gallant said. "But exhibition games are to get ready for the regular season. But tonight wasn't acceptable.’’

One of the few bright spots Friday was forward Julien Gauthier. Gauthier might have been a longshot to make the team when camp began, but he has played well in the preseason, according to Gallant. And he was good again Friday.

"I thought the kid Gauthier was probably one of the better players for our team tonight,’’ Gallant said.

If Kravtsov does end up missing time, Gauthier would be a prime candidate to fill in some of his minutes.

"Obviously, you never want to see your teammates get injured,’’ Gauthier said. "Hopefully, he's going to be fine. I think he should be. But you know, if we’ve got a man down … you’ve got to step up your game a little bit. I think I tried my best tonight, and we got some good looks.’’

Notes & Quotes: Mika Zibanejad scored the Rangers’ lone goal, on the power play late in the first period … Igor Shesterkin started in goal and allowed four goals on 20 shots. Adam Huska allowed three on 14… Island Park native Anthony Bitetto and Farmingville native Keith Kinkaid were among a group of six players who were reassigned to AHL Hartford Friday after clearing waivers. Queens native Anthony Greco, Jonny Brodzinski, Tim Gettinger and Ty Ronning, all forwards, were the other players who were sent down … Following Saturday’s game, the Rangers will stay in New England and hold practice Monday and Tuesday in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.


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