MONTREAL — The Rangers managed to come out of their most recent precarious lineup situation unscathed. Securing their first win of the 2021-22 season, the Blueshirts took a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night at Bell Centre — despite being without two of the team’s top-six players for a majority of the game.
They’ll have to do it again on Monday.
Ryan Strome and Kaapo Kakko will both be unavailable for the Rangers’ matchup with the Maple Leafs on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena. The Rangers placed Kakko, who suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury at the end of the first period against the Habs, on injured reserve Sunday.
After being put in COVID-19 protocol just before the Rangers left for Montreal, Strome is still unable to join the team and is set to miss his second straight game. The Rangers have recalled Morgan Barron from Hartford.
“We can’t change the way we’re going to play because guys are injured,” head coach Gerard Gallant said Sunday during the Rangers’ optional skate. “We have a system we want to play, and nothing is going to change there. But, obviously, when you lose top guys like Strome and Kakko, it hurts your team some. But it gives other people opportunities, so it’s not an excuse that, ‘Oh, they’re missing Kakko, they’re missing Strome, they’re not going to win to tonight.’
“That’s not what it’s all about, it’s about other guys stepping up — which they did in Montreal.”
Vitali Kravtsov certainly would’ve been one of the first recalls from Hartford, ahead of Barron and Greg McKegg, had he accepted his AHL assignment. Instead, the 21-year-old is back home in Chelyabinsk, Russia, The Post can confirm.
It appears the Rangers are seeking a trade for the No. 9-overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, who was disgruntled over his recent demotion to the Wolf Pack, as well as where he had been playing in the lineup during his brief tenure in New York.
“That’s not my department,” Gallant said when asked if Kravtsov was an option. “Right now, I don’t know what’s going on. [General manager Chris Drury] is talking daily, I’m sure, with the agent. But I don’t know much information about it.”
The Rangers’ lines will have to be shaken up for the third straight game. It’s safe to bet that the top unit of Alexis Lafreniere, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider will remain the same. However, Gallant will have to plug someone into that right-wing spot on the second line next to Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil, who replaced Strome on Saturday.
Gallant said there hasn’t been much discussion about putting Barclay Goodrow at center. However, if any other injuries occur, the coach just may have to start talking about it. For now, Barron will likely center the third line between either Sammy Blais, Julien Gauthier or Dryden Hunt.
Blais, who returned to the lineup after sustaining a minor lower-body injury in the season opener, said he tries not to go into a game thinking about the need to make up for offensive production when top players are out of the lineup.
“Everyone’s going to have to chip in more,” Blais said. “If you score goals, it’s always a plus. But that’s not really what I’m thinking about when I go into a game. I’m just trying to play my game and help the team win.”