Niko Mikkola

New PP Configuration. Finally

With Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola joining the Rangers for tonight’s game against the Seattle Kraken, coach Gerard Gallant has rolled out a reconfigured line-up….and even new power play units, but perhaps the most surprising move is that Vitali Kravtsov is back in to the line-up after sitting out the last four as a healthy scratch.

As expected, Tarasenko slots in alongside Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad to form what the team hopes will be a formidable first line.  How well they will do in their own zone remains to be seen, with both Tarasenko and Panarin noted for having some gaps in defensive game.

While the Kid Line remains intact, Gallant has tweaked the Trocheck line, by moving Barclay Goodrow back down to the 4th line center role, and inserting Kravtsov back in on the right wing. In theory the move now gives the Rangers three scoring threats, and also gives them a fourth line ocnsisting of Jimmy Vesey – Goodrow – Julien Gauthier.

After weeks of playing a fourth line made up of whatever was left over, this fourth line is starting to look like one that can actually give their opponents some trouble.  Kravtsov will likely have a short window though to make an impression, and if he can’t bring more offensive in particular, it’s likely to be a short lived experiment and could even lead to his departure at the deadline.

On defense, Niko Mikkola takes over from Ben Harpur on the third pairing, and will be the latest attempt to address a position that has remained a weak point over the last three seasons.

Also of note, Gallant has finally looked to shake up the power play, but replacing Vincent Trocheck with the red hot Filip Chytil.  Chytil has a five goal scoring streak going, and has the hottest hand of any Ranger forward.  Tarasenko will start out on the second unit, pushing Goodrow out of the configuration, with Trocheck replacing Chytil in the middle.

The new configurations should lend themselves to a bit more variability in which unit comes out first, and how much time each unit gets.  It remains to be seen though whether Gallant can resist the temptation to go back to his preferred option of leaning heavily on the first unit despite their struggles since the holiday break.

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