Vitali Kravtsov likely to be trade chip after latest scratch

RALEIGH, NC — Vitali Kravtsov’s return to active duty lasted one game and 10:46 ice time.

The 23-year-old Russian, who scratched for Rangers’ 6-2 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday after having a rather brief third-row opportunity against the Kraken on Friday, will likely be a chip (or fodder) which will be played by General Manager Chris Drury ahead of the March 3rd trading close.

Kravtsov had played at right with Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck, while Barclay Goodrow had centered on Jimmy Vesey and Julien Gauthier on the fourth row in a 6-3 win over Seattle. He had an attempted shot that missed the net and he was replaced on the stretch by more defensive Vesey and Goodrow for one shift each, with Rangers leading by a goal and two.

Head Coach Gerard Gallant was asked if he hadn’t seen enough of Kravtsov or if he wanted a different look for this one, in which Vesey ran back to Trocheck and Kreider and Jake Leschyshyn between Goodrow and Gauthier.

Vitaly Kravtsov
Vitaly Kravtsov
NHLI via Getty Images

“A little bit of both, actually,” Gallant said. “I wasn’t disappointed with him but we want a different mix for him [Saturday]. So a combination of both.”

Friday’s game was Kravtsov’s first game since December 23, after four straight healthy scratches. He has six points (3-3) in 28 games after scratching 15 times and missing another 10 from various preseason injuries.

Regarding Vesey — who has previously played nine games with Trocheck and Kreider — and Goodrow, Gallant said, “They may be fourth row, but they’re not fourth row players.”

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Pair Niko Mikkola-Braden Schneider had a rough night on Friday after being united after just one morning skate. They were in action for 11:32 while recording a 25 percent try rate (six in favor, 18 against) and an expected goals of 22.67.

The 6-foot-5 Mikkola, who is far more than just an incidental part of the Tarasenko trade package from St. Louis, picked up three minors on Friday despite claiming a game delay in the third period for allegedly slipping the puck into the scored a goal was proven wrong via video. Despite these problems, Gallant gave the tandem a regular turn in the last 10 minutes of the game. It wasn’t uncommon for the team to be reduced to two pairs in the final 10-12 minutes of contested games.

“It’s not easy to get into a new team without practice,” Gallant said. “They had a morning skate, but I thought it was good. He’s exactly what we wanted. He’s a big, strong guy and I think he’s going to be really good for our group.”

Delaying the game penalty on Mikkola at 8:20 of the third came only to 1:59 after the Kraken cut Rangers’ lead to 5-3. But the penalty-killing unit, consisting of tandems Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad, Vesey-Goodrow, Trocheck-Kaapo Kakko up front and pairs Adam Fox-Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller-Jacob Trouba at back, limited the Kraken to only a try – a try by Vince Dunn from the left which was blocked by Trouba.

Jaroslav Halak came on Saturday on a six-game winning streak in which he had recorded a .926 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average. Henrik Lundqvist became the last Rangers goaltender to win seven straight starts as he won 7-0 from December 8–27, 2014 with a .940 save and 1.84 GAA.

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The Rangers travel to Vancouver on Sunday where they will practice twice before taking on the Canucks on Wednesday. That precedes the games in Edmonton on Friday and Calgary on Saturday to complete the journey.


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