ST. LOUIS — Rangers face another team Thursday night battling for points and an optimal playoff position when they face the Blues for the second time in eight days.
After losing to a desperate Wild squad on Tuesday, Rangers should expect the same from St. Louis. As well as trying to avoid a fifth straight defeat, the Blues will seek redemption after their first meeting of the season last week at the Garden. In this game he has Rangers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to secure a 5-3 win.
“It’s a big focus on the final game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after Wednesday’s practice session. “We know their team, they’re a skill team, probably not as strong as a few years ago, but they’re still a faster team, they’re a fast team. Check out their lineup, it’s deep. Very talented team.
“They’re going through a rough patch here like most teams, but it’s going to be a struggle. They’re trying to get points here, they’re in a tight playoff chase like everyone else and it should be a good game.”
One of the few positive things to take away Rangers’ frustrating 5-2 loss in Minnesota was that Dryden Hunt scored his first goal since December 1st. The back row of Hunt, Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome was the only consistent unit for Rangers on Tuesday.
“It’s been a long time, 30 games is quite a long time not to get on the scorers list and you just have to stick to that,” Hunt said. “When you play with these guys, you want to produce. You put yourself under pressure to contribute and stuff like that. It’s been tough, you just try not to think about it and try to bring other things into your game, whether you’re putting energy on the precheck or scoring, those kinds of things add up too.”
Hunt, who has been on the right wing in the second session for the last seven games, pointed out (like many before him) that Panarin, who often watches games most don’t even think about, can be difficult to read. Noting that Panarin and Strome already have the chemistry established, Hunt sees himself as the third man to intervene in the forecheck and get them the puck.
“I think it’s starting to come,” Hunt said of the chemistry between Panarin and Strome. “Of course you go through ups and downs throughout the season. But I think in the last five or six games we’ve had the puck a lot. We controlled the game. Of course, when Bread has the puck on his racquet, you have to be open.”
Hunt said Panarin has been patient with him, although there have been times when Hunt has sensed a little frustration from his linemate. Panarin has given him pointers, and Hunt said he will always listen to a top-flight NHL player.
Hunt brings a North-South play that Gallant liked, but if he can crank up production the second line will be much more effective.
“He has a big goal [Tuesday] At night it was nice to see him break that little goose egg he’s had for a while,” Gallant said. “But he plays hard and he competes hard. That’s a big part of it. At the end of the road, which is us six or seven weeks away, hopefully we get a chance to get a playoff spot and get into the playoffs. … But that’s the kind of hockey it’s going to be, you have to work hard, compete hard and go to those blue colors.
“It’s too early to talk about playoff hockey, but when you talk about it, that’s the game. This first round consists of competing and fighting and reaching those areas.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/09/dryden-hunt-looks-to-find-home-on-rangers-second-line/ Dryden Hunt is looking for a home in Rangers’ second row