LOS ANGELES – It’s starting to get weird for the Rangers, who are finally starting to get through the COVID-19 frenzy that has affected so many other teams around the NHL.
AHL’s Hartford-based Rangers coach Chris Knobloch was scheduled to off the bench for the Rangers in their late Monday game against the Los Angeles Kings. Rangers called up Knoblech Sunday to replace coach Gerard Gallant, who entered COVID protocol that day.
Knoblauch, 43, is in his third year as Hartford head coach, and this is the second time he has to come in and manage Rangers due to COVID. He was called up last season to serve as the acting head coach when he contracted the Covid-19 virus, and then coach, David Quinn, and his entire coaching staff were off the bench. Knoblauch went 4-2 in his six bench games for the Rangers, including a stunning 9-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in his first game.
This season, Knoblauch and his crew have led the Wolf Pack to a record 15-9-2-2 in 28 games. His overall record with Hartford is 60-38-9-7.
For several days, Gallant has been saying he doesn’t know, every night, who might be missing from his squad due to being in the COVID protocol. And on Sunday, while speaking to the media about star Artemy Panarin’s return from a match with COVID, Galant warned that it’s not clear who might be out on Monday. It was just over an hour before the Rangers announced that Galant himself had gone into protocol.
So far, Rangers haven’t been mostly hit with losing too many players at once to the virus. Ryan Strom got it in October, and Greg McKeig got it in late November – early December. Goalkeeper Keith Kinkade earned it, while with Hartford, in early December. With the NHL going to improved protocols and more frequent testing as more and more players across the league begin to contract the virus, Patrick Nemeth, Ryan Lindgren, Alexander Georgiev, Jared Tenordi, Kevin Rooney, Banarin, Igor Chesterkin, Julian Gauthier and Ryan Reaves all spent time on protocol, as did the assistant coach. Mike Kelly and now Gallant.
Shesterkin, Gauthier, and Reaves are currently under protocol. It won’t be known if anyone else will join them on Monday until the team takes the ice to warm up.
All these players in COVID protocol is the reason why the Hartford trio of Tim Gettinger, Johnny Brodzinski and Morgan Barron played in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. All three players were called up from Hartford and placed in the Rangers cab lineup, eventually moved to the active roster.
With Panarin, Gautier and Reeves in protocol – and Dryden Hunt in reserve with an upper body injury – the Hartford trio played together as fourth streak on Saturday against Anaheim. Barron had an assist in Ryan Lindgren’s first goal, and Gettinger played a role in that goal as well, using his 6-6, 220-pound frame to provide the screen for goalkeeper Anthony Stollars.
All three played well enough to attract praise from Galant after the match.
He said: ‘I loved them, they played great. They kept it simple. They were well vetted, and had chances to score. Gettinger was a big screen on that in Lindgren’s goal.’
Getinger, who has eight goals, 16 points in 21 games for Hartford this season and one assist in 10 NHL games before Monday, admitted that it was easier for Baron and Brodzinski to team up just because of the Hartford connection.
“Me, Mo and Johnny have played with each other there before, and we kind of did what we had to do to join the squad: just work hard and be physical.”
Milestone for Lindgren
Lindgren was scheduled to play his 150th game on Monday.