MONTREAL — The lineup obstacles just keep coming for the Rangers — but they certainly cleared the most recent one.
After starting the night without one of their top-six forwards, Ryan Strome, who is in COVID-19 protocol, the Rangers lost another when Kaapo Kakko sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury in the first period of Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Canadiens at Bell Center.
Head coach Gerard Gallant didn’t have an immediate update on Kakko, saying the Finnish winger is “day-to-day.”
With Strome out, Filip Chytil was bumped from the third line to center the 1B unit, between Artemi Panarin and Kakko. The Rangers previously had recalled Greg McKegg from Hartford to center the third line between Sammy Blais and Barclay Goodrow, while Dryden Hunt, Kevin Rooney and Ryan Reaves made up the fourth line.
“It’s always tough when you lose a guy like Stromer,” Mika Zibanejad said. “He’s such a smart player and he obviously is a big part with [Artemi Panarin]. That’s tough. And when that happens, you have to have someone step up in that role and I thought everyone contributed. Obviously, losing Kap as well, you never want to lose any players and probably, especially those kind of players. It was a great effort by everyone, really.”
Blais was back in the lineup after missing the Rangers’ home opener against the Stars on Thursday with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
“It’s tough when you lose top players during the game, especially top players like Kaapo,” Gallant said. “But that’s part of the game and the guys dug in and dug down and other guys got a little bit more ice time.”
Chris Kreider scored his third goal in as many games Saturday, taking a feed from Zibanejad and putting it past Canadiens netminder Jake Allen at 9:59 of the second period on a power play.
The 30-year-old winger has three of the Rangers’ six goals so far this season.
Chytil logged 21:02 in his first crack at skating in the top six this season. He also won 6-of-11 faceoffs for a 54.5 win percentage from the dots.
“Any time I get a chance, I just play my best game,” Chytil said before the game. “Just use the minutes for my side and help the team.”
After the win, the Rangers traveled to Toronto and are scheduled to practice Sunday afternoon at Ford Performance Center. On Monday, the Blueshirts will square off with the Maple Leafs.