Breaking up Kid Line pays off for Rangers and Gerard Gallant

Gerard Gallant hasn’t altered his top-three line combinations often during the playoffs, but the Rangers coach broke up the Kid Line for their Game 4 win over the Hurricanes, which tied their second-round series.

Gallant bumped up winger Tyler Motte as the right wing alongside Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere, while dropping Kaapo Kakko to the fourth unit on the left of Kevin Rooney and Ryan Reaves.

“Change it up, just get a little more speed with Motter there, and defensive responsibilities,” Gallant said Wednesday. “I actually really liked Kakko on the left side. He plays right wing most times, but I really liked him [Wednesday] night on the left.”

Motte missed the first five of seven games in the first round against the Penguins, but he buried the empty-net goal to seal Game 3 before logging 14:55 of ice-time in Game 4.

“I thought it went well,” the 27-year-old Motte said about his new linemates. “Maybe a little bit of adjustment there in the first period for all of us, but we can all skate, we all like to get on the forecheck and bring a little bit of physicality. We’re reliable defensively.

Tyler Motte
Tyler Motte

“Obviously those guys have played quite a bit together. No matter who I’m playing with I’m just trying to make their jobs easier, use my speed, be physical, trying to get the pucks in their hands and trying to create a little offensively. But we’re also not giving up anything on our end, which is important.”

The NHL still hasn’t announced a starting time for Game 6 on Saturday at the Garden, but the league has notified the teams that it will be a night game. An exact game time will be announced at the conclusion of the Edmonton-Calgary game Thursday night.

The Rangers didn’t practice Wednesday, but injured forward Barclay Goodrow skated and is “doing good” and “going in the right direction,” Gallant said. Goodrow hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury May 3 in Game 1 of the first round against Pittsburgh.

Gallant on No. 1 defenseman Adam Fox’s play in this series: “It’s playoffs and Foxy mans up. When we talk about our team, you gotta man up in the playoffs and Foxy plays the game the right way. He plays real strong minutes, he plays great defensive hockey for us, and obviously the offense he brings to your team. So that’s what it’s all about, the superstar players.”

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