KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Gerard Gallant made a point to focus on special teams during the Rangers’ brief stay in Rhode Island, beginning with the power play on Monday and ending with the penalty kill on Tuesday.
The usual suspects took reps on the PK, but there are also some new young faces, as well. Barclay Goodrow, who was acquired this offseason and subsequently signed to a six-year deal, skated next to Kevin Rooney, who has been a staple on the penalty kill. Mika Zibanejad saw some time with Kaapo Kakko, while Ryan Strome and Alexis Lafreniere paired up as well. Chris Kreider also rotated in next to Lafreniere.
On defense, the top four pairings remained the same in Jacob Trouba-K’Andre Miller and Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox. Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tinordi also took some reps.
“There’s a lot of different guys we use, so it’s narrowed down but it’s a work in progress, same as the power play,” Gallant said Tuesday before the Rangers caught a flight back to New York. “We wanted to accomplish both of those in the last two days and we had 20 minutes in the second half of practice.
“There’s a lot of new guys that are going to be killing penalties and the more experience they get with each other, the better they’ll be.”
Lafreniere and Kakko are two notable new faces, considering they both haven’t logged any shorthanded time since joining the Rangers. When asked about Lafreniere’s and Kakko’s willingness to jump on the PK, Gallant said it wasn’t much of choice for the two young forwards.
“Well it’s not willing, we told them to do it,” the coach said with a smile. “Those kids want more ice time and they get the opportunity to do that. They got to grow as players so, I mean, we’ll see once the regular season starts how many reps they’re going to get.
“Hopefully, they’re real good at it, they’re talented and there’s no reason why they can’t kill penalties.”
Lafreniere said skating on the PK in the NHL has had a little bit of a learning curve to it, but the 19-year-old added he’s prepared to play anywhere the coaching staff wants him. He noted how PK work includes facing the best players on each opponent’s team, which means he has to be careful and focus on his positioning.
It may be Lafreniere’s first time killing penalties in the NHL, but he said he played shorthanded minutes in junior.
“It’s not all new,” he said.
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