LOS ANGELES — Zac Jones played in his second consecutive game for the Rangers Tuesday, as the Blueshirts played the third game of their West Coast trip against the L.A. Kings, and the 22-year-old defenseman was hoping to stay in the lineup for a while, as his battle with Libor Hajek for ice time continued.
“I’m not going to say it's easy to be scratched,’’ Jones said on Monday. “It's not. Nobody's gonna say it's easy to be scratched. So, I’m trying to take every day as a positive, trying to come here and get better, no matter if I'm in the lineup or not. I'm just trying to work on my game, trying to work on anything I can do to help the team win when I'm in the lineup.’’
Jones and Hajek, 24, are going back-and-forth in their competition for the sixth defenseman spot. Jones entered Tuesday having played more games (12) than Hajek (9), but Hajek had played six in a row before Jones replaced him Saturday in San Jose.
It figures to keep going like this, where the two players take turns stringing a few games together in the lineup before the other gets a chance, unless one grabs hold of the position and doesn’t let go. Both players know the situation, though Jones insisted he doesn’t feel under pressure when he plays to do something spectacular in order to keep the spot.
“I'm trying to come in whenever I'm in the lineup, trying to just play a consistent ‘B-plus,’ ‘B-minus’ game every game, and not get too high, or not get too low,’’ he said. “Whatever the coaches do with the lineup decisions after that, they do. It's out of my control at that point.’’
Notes & quotes: Coach Gerard Gallant stayed with the same lineup as he used against San Jose, meaning forward Vitali Kravtsov missed his fifth straight game and Ryan Reaves sat out his fourth straight. Igor Shesterkin started in goal, and Gallant did not commit to starting backup Jaro Halak Wednesday in Anaheim. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow,’’ Gallant said … Former Rangers first round pick Lias Andersson was recalled by the Kings Monday from their AHL affiliate in Ontario, Calif. Andersson, the No. 7 pick overall in 2017, had five goals and nine points in 11 games for Ontario.