The New York Rangers could have Vitali Kravtsov back in the lineup Sunday for their game against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
The right ringer has been cleared to play after suffering an upper-body injury early in the opening game of the season, although Rangers coach Gerard Gallant would not say whether Kravtsov would play Sunday.
“It’s all timing,” Gallant said after practice Saturday. “I mean, we like him. He’s worked hard. … But when your team is playing really well and you’re off to a good start, you don’t like to mess around with a lot of things. We’ll see what’s going to happen. We’ll talk with our coaches and see what we’re thinking (for Sunday).”
Kravtsov opened the season on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. On his return he will likely be on the third line with Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil.
Both the Rangers and Blue Jackets are coming off losses. The Rangers fell 3-2 in overtime to the visiting San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
“I think we were passing up shots, something we haven’t been doing through the first few games here,” Rangers left winger Chris Kreider said after the loss.
After winning two straight and taking a 2-0 lead on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets lost 6-3 to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic scored the first two goals for Columbus. Rookie Kent Johnson scored his first career NHL goal to extend the lead to 3-1 in the second period.
“We’re still 3-3 going into third,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “You’ve got to gather yourself. That’s part of pro hockey. We took the first, they took the second. You’ve got to gather yourself for the third. We gave up two faceoff goals in the third period. That’s just killer. That should never happen.”
“We had a good first and they didn’t,” Jenner said. “You know they’re going to push back, and we can’t let off the gas like that. I thought we just took a step back a little bit, and a team like that’s going to make you pay.”
Blue Jackets right winger Justin Danforth sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return.
Panarin has at least one point in each of the Rangers’ first five games this season, the strongest start of his eight-year NHL career. He has three goals and eight assists.
The Rangers are still trying to play to the level they did in their season-opening 3-1 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, Gallant said.
“Play 82 like that, we’ll be in good shape,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said.
The Rangers did not play that way in the loss to the Sharks, especially in the third period.
“We know what it looks like by now when it’s rolling well and the team is doing the right things on the ice and playing a direct game and not trying to make the prettiest play every time,” Goodrow said.
“When we stray away from that, things tend to not go our way. That third period was kind of a prime example of that. Maybe the whole game in general.”
–Field Level Media