Dryden Hunt, who appeared to be veering toward endangered species status approaching cutdown day, will replace the ailing Vitali Kravtsov in the lineup for Thursday’s match in Minnesota.
Hunt, who played up and down last year’s lineup and worked on Artemi Panarin’s right side for 29 games, skated on the fourth line with Ryan Carpenter and Ryan Reaves at Wednesday’s practice after having been scratched from Tuesday’s opener.
Kravtsov, who left the 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay at the 7:01 mark of the first period with an upper-body injury following a hit from Victor Hedman, is not on this two-game trip that includes a match in Winnipeg on Friday.
The Rangers believe Kravtsov is a possibility next week, when the club is home to Anaheim on Monday and San Jose on Thursday, but there is no definitive timeline for the winger’s return.
Though Hunt will make his season debut, Sammy Blais has not yet been cleared for duty after incurring an upper-body injury on a hit from Alexander Romanov in Saturday’s final exhibition game on the Island.
Blais did skate at practice, albeit wearing a gold non-contact jersey, and has accompanied the club on the trip. Theoretically, the winger could be cleared by Friday.
The Rangers thus will maintain a 23-man roster for the immediate future.
Alexis Lafreniere remained on the right with Panarin and Vincent Trocheck while Jimmy Vesey skated on the left with Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow.
“I’d been thinking about putting Laffy up there for quite a bit of training camp, so I don’t think this affects anything,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “There’s no concern. When I put Vesey and Goodrow up there with Fil, I thought they played great.”
“I think everybody adjusted real well to losing Kravtsov. I’m not concerned about moving guys around a lot. We did it a lot last year so it doesn’t bother me one bit and I don’t think it bothers the players because I do it a lot.”
Braden Schneider, who made the switch from No. 45 to No. 4 prior to the opener, knows some Rangers history, He knew the number had once belonged to Ron Greschner, knew that it had been worn by Michael Del Zotto, and, “Kevin Lowe wore it, too …”
“I always liked having a low number and 4 was the lowest available,” Schneider said of the switch, with No. 2 having been retired in honor of Brian Leetch and No. 3 retired in the name of Harry Howell. “I wore 4 as a youth hockey player, but I think of NHL defensemen and low numbers.”
(No one mention this to No. 26. Dave Maloney.)
Zac Jones, who has been given the all-clear to move out of a hotel and into a permanent residence, is searching for a spot in Westchester.
“Not the city, not this year,” Jones, who will turn 22 next Tuesday, said while laughing.
Upcoming back-to-back means Jaroslav Halak will get his first start as a Ranger either in Minnesota or Winnipeg.
The Rangers had 39 shots against Tampa Bay — 21 at even-strength; 14 on the power play, that went 1-for-4; and four shorthanded in killing five of six and allowing only a five-on-three against.
The power play applied such sustained pressure that the first unit was on for 5:41 of the club’s 6:12 with the man-advantage.