Yes, the Rangers will be without Artemi Panarin (leave of absence), Kaapo Kakko (COVID-list), Jacob Trouba (broken thumb) and Filip Chytil (upper-body injury) for Wednesday’s match in Philadelphia.
But let’s hold the “Woe is them” memes.
Because the Blueshirts never considered giving back the two points they earned last Thursday in a shootout victory over the Flyers, which were missing Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun, all of whom were on the COVID-19 protocol list.
“It’s a strange time and a strange year. I know I’ve said that a few times already, but there are a lot of other teams who have been dealing with six, seven guys,” Chris Kreider said following Tuesday’s practice. “The Flyers are missing half, if not more than half of their top six.
“So this is a challenging year, but I think the team that learns to roll with those punches and has that next-man-up mentality is going to be better for it going forward.”
Panarin’s presence elevates the Rangers, who are 0-3 and have been outscored by an aggregate 10-4 in the three contests he has missed over the past two seasons. But it is up to the group to step up in his absence, difficult an assignment as that might prove.
“At the end of the day, none of us can do the things that Artie can do and there are some things we can do that Artie can’t do,” Kreider said. “There’s not a lot of those things, but I’m not going to go out there and try to be Artemi Panarin, I’m not going to be dancing on the half-wall.
“I’m a net-front guy, so I’ve just got to do my job to the best of my ability and that’s all anybody can do.”
The Rangers will open with Alexis Lafreniere on the left with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Kreider will skate with Ryan Strome and Colin Blackwell. Kevin Rooney will line up between Phil Di Giuseppe and Jonny Brodzinksi. The unit of Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier will remain intact.
Until it all changes, that is.
“Brace yourself maybe for some line changing quickly because we’re trying to figure out the best matches we can have,” coach David Quinn said. “In our meetings to decide the lineup, we probably changed it 10 or 11 times so none of this is 100 percent,… none of this is locked in stone.“Anytime you’re in a situation like we are, you’re trying things and seeing what can and can’t work.”
Chytil, who had been on the COVID-list for a week, came off it on Monday and skated on his own before Tuesday’s practice. The center, sidelined with an unidentified injury since Jan. 26, may be no more than 10 days away from making his return. So that is something.
“One of the things that sports does is that it really gives you a chance to show how mentally tough you are, and that’s something we’re getting tested on,” Quinn said. “Everybody is during this season. Teams have been hit by COVID, losing four, five and six players and they move forward.
“Sports is all about how you handle adversity. That really dictates guys that are successful individually and teams that are successful. That’s something we have to face and that’s something we have to conquer.”
The Panarin situation, meanwhile, follows the Tony DeAngelo saga by about three weeks. COVID-19 has been about the least of it for the Blueshirts.
“I jokingly said to Alexis [Lafreniere] that he’s seen more, I guess for a lack of a better term, drama and generally just wild and unorthodox things happening in these first two months of the season than I’ve experienced over the last decade or so,” Kreider said. “But I guess that’s just the state of the world.”