It’s safe to say that Gerard Gallant isn’t afraid to mix things up a bit in the middle of a game. Whether that be in the regular season or in the playoffs, as he proved on Sunday.
The Rangers bench boss separated the “Kid Line” for a period and a half before reuniting them in the final minutes of the second and all of the third. And Gallant intimated that he wasn’t done moving guys around for Game 4 on Tuesday.
New York held an optional practice on Monday at their Westchester practice facility so it wasn’t immediately clear what possible changes Gallant could make for Tuesday’s showdown at Madison Square Garden. Filip Chytil was moved to the top line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad in Game 3, while Alexis Lafreniere was placed on the right side Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
Kaapo Kakko remained on the third line with Andrew Copp and Frank Vattrano. The changes appeared to work on Sunday as the Blue Shirts snapped a goal drought that lasted more than 127 minutes of hockey.
Part of what has helped has been the Rangers’ comfortability with playing in different positions, even in ones their not as familiar with.
“We’ve had injuries over the years and I’ve switched the lines up, a lot of times in game against line changes,” Gallant said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal. We tried Fil at right-wing last night. Fil played a few games in the season at right-wing and did a good job. We move guys in and out. As coaches you always say should I really do this, move him out of center and put him on right-wing now, but I thought he did a good job. He played well up there, created some chances and almost scored a goal in the second period. I don’t like to do it, love to do it, but I just thought last night I’d try something.”
The decision to mix and match in the postseason could be a daunting one for an NHL coach, especially with their team trailing. Gallant hasn’t shown any hesitation and, while not the focus during the regular season, being open to it in the regular season has translated to the playoffs.
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“While I wasn’t thinking it then,” Gallant said. “I always like to, if things aren’t going great for a couple of games, I don’t mind switching guys up. Like I’d love to keep rolling lines over when things are going good, but when we have some struggles you put guys in some different situations. See how they respond.”
Puck drop on Game 4 is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.