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Vitali Kravtsov likely to start out on Rangers’ third line

David Quinn said Brendan Lemieux was shipped to Los Angeles because of the “logjam” of forwards the Rangers have, but the head coach proclaimed that the team has yet to establish a plan for the very player that has caused the congestion in the lineup.

Vitali Kravtsov has been practicing with the Rangers for a week, but since Quinn has been away from the team due to COVID-19 protocols since the 21-year-old was cleared to play, there apparently hasn’t been an opportunity to discuss a course of action.

“I literally just said hi to him this morning for the first time,” Quinn said prior to Sunday’s 5-4 loss in Washington, his first game back behind the bench since March 15. “We have so much going on here, we haven’t talked in depth about what the plan is. The plan is obviously for him to continue to practice, and when we feel he can help, we’ll get him in there.”

Now that Kravtsov is in the mix, the Rangers coaching staff has some decisions to make. The 2018 ninth-overall pick is widely considered to be a top-six player, but the Rangers’ top two lines are pretty set in stone following a surge of offense the last handful of games.

It is most certainly a logjam up top, which will likely force Kravtsov onto the third line to start out. Lemieux primarily flanked the fourth line during his Rangers tenure, but it would be a disservice to bury Kravtsov’s skill that far down the lineup.

vitali kravtsov practices with the rangers
Vitali Kravtsov will likely have to wait to crack the Rangers top six.
Nick Homler/N.Y. Rangers

Julien Gauthier has been the third-line right wing since Brett Howden was designated to the COVID-19 protocol list. With the center set to return any day, Kravtsov would likely replace Gauthier.

“With Kravtsov here and Howden getting healthy, some guys doing well in Hartford, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Quinn said of trading Lemieux in exchange for the Kings’ 2021 fourth-round pick. “It’s going to give [Lemieux] an opportunity to maybe play in a little bit more of a role that he’s looking for. He was a good player for us and we’re going to miss him.”


The Rangers signed defenseman Hunter Skinner to an entry-level deal set to begin during the 2021-22 season, the team announced Monday.

Skinner, the team’s fourth-round pick (112th overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft, will join the Hartford Wolf Pack on an AHL contract for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

The 19-year-old skated in 26 games with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies this season, registering seven goals and 10 assists. He finished the 2020-21 season ranked third among ECHL defensemen in goals and 10th in shots on goal with 74.


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