Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant joked that every day he looks at the NHL standings, where his team currently sits in third in the Metropolitan Division, but he never pays any attention to them.
When a division opponent comes up on the schedule, however, attention must be paid.
“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt anytime your division opponents come into town, you talk about it all the time,” Gallant said after practice Tuesday ahead of the Rangers matchup with the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. “It’s a four-point game, so you got to be ready to play them and we haven’t played Philly this year, so looking forward to that.”
The Flyers are coming into Wednesday’s contest on a six-game losing skid, in which they’ve been outscored 26-11 — including a shootout and overtime loss to the Lightning and Panthers, respectively. Currently sitting in second to last in the division, Philadelphia has been without former Blueshirt Kevin Hayes, who has played in just two games after undergoing abdominal surgery in September, and Derick Brassard, who has missed the last three games.
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters Tuesday that Hayes may be able to play Wednesday, but Brassard has a hip issue that could sideline him for a bit longer.
The American Hockey League is currently in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, and the Rangers’ affiliate in Hartford, the Wolf Pack, is one of many teams who have had to halt games.
“Due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Hartford Wolf Pack, our home game on Wednesday, December 1st has been postponed,” the team announced Tuesday.
Wolf Pack personnel took rapid tests Monday night and underwent saliva PCR testing Tuesday. Results weren’t expected to be ready until later Tuesday night. While the team hasn’t released an exact number of positive tests, NHL.com’s Mark Divver reported there have been over 10.
AHL teams in Providence (Bruins), Hershey (Capitals) and Bridgeport (Islanders) have all reported positive COVID-19 cases.
The current outbreak in Hartford explains why the Rangers haven’t made any recalls in the wake of Greg McKegg entering COVID-19 protocol on Monday.
“Definitely [it limits us],” Gallant said. “But hopefully our regular lineup is going [Wednesday] and we’ll see what happens. If we needed something down there, it definitely hurts you for sure.”
The Bruins’ Brad Marchand admitted he told Artemi Panarin “no one in Russia likes him,” which prompted the Rangers’ star winger to hurl his glove at him and subsequently earn a $5,000 fine.
“If that’s what sets guys over the edge, then this is the softest league in the world,” Marchand told reporters.