RALEIGH, N.C. — Dryden Hunt’s return to the lineup for the Rangers’ 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Friday night, after one healthy scratch that followed a three-game absence with an upper body injury, bumped Flip Chytil back to the third line and Julien Gauthier into street clothes.
Hunt took the revolving right-wing spot on the Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome connection, which had belonged to Chytil the previous three games. The Bread and Butter pair has operated with five right wings —including Kaapo Kakko, Barclay Goodrow and Alexis Lafreniere — but Hunt has held that spot the longest.
Indeed, Hunt lined up beside Panarin and Strome in 13 of 14 games from Nov. 24-Dec. 31. The trio had been on together for 130:45 at five-on-five, on for both seven goals for and against. Chytil, meanwhile, skated on the trio with Lafreniere and Goodrow. It marked his fifth straight game on the wing, the first two of which he skated with Kevin Rooney, the last two with Strome.
Neither combination was especially effective in this one, but then neither were the Rangers as a team.
“We’ve done a lot of line switches all year,” said coach Gerard Gallant, who has generally kept two-man combinations together throughout the season. “Some games are real good, other games are not as good. Huntsy played really well [with Panarin and Strome] at times. We just switch back and forth.”
There is more to it than that. Matchups dictate much. But in the grand picture, it has yet to be determined whether Chytil’s future is on the wing or in the middle, where he has played most of his life.
“We’re still figuring that out, he’s figuring that out,” Gallant said. “Fil wants to play, he’s  years old, he’s a young player, still. … So we’re trying to figure stuff out, he’s trying to figure stuff out, I’m trying to do what’s best for our team.”That’s my job, to win hockey games.
“I don’t think he’s disappointed playing the wing, he’s never said that to us. He just wants to play.”
The game ended with chants of “Tony! Tony! Tony!” coming from the stands in recognition of the game’s first star, Tony DeAngelo, who recorded a three-point night for Carolina, including a power-play goal in his first meeting with his former team.
The Hurricanes had five former Rangers in the lineup: Jesper Fast, Brady Skjei, Derek Stepan, Brendan Smith and DeAngelo.
“It was weird maybe for the first shift and seeing them in warmups,” Mika Zibanejad said of facing his former mates. “After that it was just a regular game.”
Post Sports+ members, sign up to have Mollie Walker text you the latest word on the Rangers and reply with your thoughts and questions. Not a Sports+ member yet? Try it now.
“It probably means a lot for a guy playing against his whole team and they had a lot of them today.”
The Blueshirts, who entered the match third in the NHL in penalty-killing efficiency at 85.2 percent, surrendered goals on both of Carolina’s power plays. It marked just the third time the Rangers had allowed more than one power-play goal this season, and the first time since Nov. 5 in Edmonton.
Gauthier, 0-0-0 in his last nine games, 1-2-3 over the last 21 and 2-3-5 in 28 games for the season was a healthy scratch for the first time since Nov. 6 and 10th time overall. … Libor Hajek and Jarred Tinordi were the scratches on defense.
Credit: Source link