NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Morgan Barron went down and got back up again.
The 22-year-old out of Cornell made his Rangers season debut Thursday in a 3-1 win over the Predators following his recall from the AHL Wolf Pack after Kaapo Kakko suffered an apparent shoulder injury on Saturday.
“I think he’s played 20 or 30 pro games, so we’re not going to rush a guy like that,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Barron, who in fact had played 22 games in the AHL with Hartford and five with the Rangers at the end of last season. “He’s a big-bodied guy who can really skate, take some faceoffs when needed and do some of that stuff.”
Barron, who got 9:18 of ice at left wing on the fourth line with center Greg McKegg and right wing Ryan Reaves that included a couple of spins killing penalties, was among the club’s last cuts. After leading the Wolf Pack with 21 points (10-11) in 21 games last year, he scored in each of Hartford’s opening two contests last weekend. In the AHL, he’s a top-line guy. Here, for now, a bottom-sixer.
“Being around the guys in camp for as long as I was, you really get a sense of how the team wants to play and how they want to be effective,” Barron said. “Watching the first few games you can tell there’s an emphasis on getting pucks low, really winning battles and kind of scoring those grittier goals, so to me that was my emphasis down there.
“It was just being able to get to the net a little but more, be able to find pucks and then coupling that with playing in all situations. That was one of the benefits of going to Hartford is that I was going to get time on the penalty kill and power play.”
Barron had hoped to be declared eligible to join the Rangers for the 2020 bubble qualifying round, but was not. He hoped to make the team last season, but did not. He hoped to make the varsity out of this camp, but did not. But he appears to have responded in a constructive manner to those disappointments.
“I talked to some of the guys when I got sent down and I think if you look at that dressing room or any dressing room in the NHL, there are a lot of guys who have spent significant time in the minors, even up until the ages of 25 and 26, before they really get an opportunity to solidify themselves in the lineup” the native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, said. “Of course it’s disappointing, I want to be in the NHL as soon as possible, just like anybody else does.
“But you look at someone like Kevin Rooney, who took quite a while in his career compared to some of these first-round picks here who jump right in. But he kept going down and just put his head down and worked and now he’s in the lineup every night and heavily contributes. So he’s just one of the guys in the dressing room I can kind of look at who has done it the right way.
“You just know if you keep working, you’ll eventually get your opportunity.”
Kakko, who is eligible to come off injured reserve in time for Monday’s home match against the Flames, participated in the morning skate while wearing a protective red jersey. It was Kakko’s first time on the ice since being injured.
The Rangers won 22 of 44 faceoffs through the first two periods, but then lost 13 of 20 in the third to finish 29-for-35 (45.3 percent). That was, however, marked improvement from the first two games on the trip, in which they won 35 and lost 75 (31.8 percent).
Igor Shesterkin entered Thursday having allowed two goals on 73 shots in 123:11 over his last two starts. … Julien Gauthier was scratched to make room for Barron, joining Libor Hajek and Jarred Tinordi in street clothes. … The Rangers end their four-game trip Saturday afternoon in Ottawa.