Nothing separates the New York Rangers fan base, as well as all of New York sports, like questioning the decisions Big Apple coaches make in their lineups. Today, the Rangers raised a few eyebrows when head coach David Quinn shuffled his lineups in practice, as posted by lohud.com’s Vince Mercogliano:
#NYR practice lines feature a few tweaks
Kreider – Zib – Buch
Panarin – Strome – Blackwell
Laf – Chytil – Kakko
PDG – Rooney – Kravtsov
Howden and Gauthier working in.
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) April 5, 2021
Of course one of the first things that everyone noticed was the “demotions” of Kappo Kakko to the third line and newcomer Vitali Kravtsov to the fourth line.
It was not like either player deserved to be demoted and Quinn explained after practice in his Zoom conference that neither player should look at the line shuffles in this manner. “We like Kakko, it is certainly nothing with the way he has played,” Quinn said. “I am anxious to see how they (Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Filip Chytil) play together.”
As far as Kravtsov going to the fourth line, Quinn said “That doesn’t mean that Kravstov will be down there forever, or even during the whole game, you can move people around. Right now we feel that it is the best lineup we have at our disposal.”
The New York Rangers shift Blackwell to the second line.
As for Blackwell skating on the second line, Quinn said: “One of the things that we thought were getting Blackwell on that line with Strome and Bread, it gives that line a little bit of a different look. This is the best lineup we feel we have for tomorrow night.”
With the move up from the fourth line to the second, Blackwell will bring a little more of a defensive presence to that line. He has also been a little more opportunistic than some other players and is not afraid to shoot the puck, something that Quinn has stressed with the team in recent games.
Blackwell discussed his new role in his post-practice Zoom conference. “I was just kind of waiting for my chance,” Blackwell said. “I have done it in the American Hockey League on many different occasions. That chance doesn’t always come, and a lot of good players do get their chance but then they don’t necessarily make the most out of it.”
The Rangers signed Blackwell as a free agent on a two-year contract worth $725,000 annually.
Blackwell had one of his best games in the NHL on March 28, which also happened to be his birthday. On that night, he scored a career-high 2 goals against the Washington Capitals.
The Rangers will start Igor Shesterkin in goal as they begin a two-game set at MSG against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.