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Rangers bench Alexis Lafreniere ahead of Thursday night battle in Tampa: “We want him to be better.”

Rangers bench Lafreniere for Thursday contest in Tampa
New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere, top, and Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Munson)
AP Photos

The New York Rangers may be winners of eight of their last ten contests, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t above benching a key player ahead of another top matchup. 

Head coach Gerard Gallant announced Thursday morning that Alexis Lafreniere would be a healthy scratch for the Rangers’ Thursday night contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

“I’m making a lineup. Consistency is the word I mentioned before. We want him to be better. He wants to be better and we need him to be more consistent in his game.” Gallant told reporters at morning skate. 

The former first-overall pick out of Quebec has 17 points on the season but has struggled at times throughout the year. During New York’s recent stretch of solid play, Lafreniere has tallied eight points and has even recorded points in two of the last four games. He however struggled along with the rest of the team in their 4-0 loss to Washington on Tuesday. 

New York’s benching of the first overall pick has further complicated their relationship with young players over the last six months. In Game 6 against the same Lightning they are about to play, the Rangers benched Kaapo Kakko (former second-overall pick) to light a spark for the rest of the team. Six months later, another top overall pick has faced the wrath of New York’s coaching staff. 

In Lafreniere’s place, Sammy Blais is expected to get the start after missing the last few games as a healthy scratch. Blais has tallied five assists for the team since tearing his ACL in 2021 and has not recorded a goal as a New York Ranger.

While the move is expected to be temporary, the future of Alexis Lafreniere will only continue to be more clouded with the Rangers. The first overall selection in 2020 has yet to make his mark as an overall playmaker and New York hopes that the recent benching will be enough to settle down the 21-year-old prospect. 

Lafreniere is also expected to be a restricted free agent after this season as well. 

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