Ryan Lindgren was sorely missed on the ice by his Rangers teammates, when the defenseman was sidelined for Games 2-4 with an undisclosed lower-body injury that he suffered in the opening contest of this first-round series against the Penguins.
Since Lindgren’s return to the lineup in Game 5, the Rangers have looked a bit heavier. It also can’t be a coincidence that his defensive partner, Adam Fox, has been that much better, as well.
It’s evident that Lindgren is still banged up. The Rangers went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in Lindgren’s first game back to ensure they weren’t caught down to five D-men if No. 55 had to retreat to the locker room. Lindgren also hasn’t really practiced since he got back into game action, indicating that he needs all the rest he can get.
“That’s just the kind of player he is,” Chris Kreider said when asked of Lindgren’s inspiring performance in Game 5. “That’s just how he’s built. I don’t think we expected anything less, but at the same time, I think the proper word is inspiring. He’s a warrior. He’s the kind of guy that you want to be in a foxhole with you.
“You know, it was terrific to get him back in the lineup and to see him play the way he did. He’s a huge part of this team. Huge part, I mean, on the ice and in the locker room.”
Lindgren scored an empty-net goal in Game 5 and assisted on Mika Zibanejad’s 2-2 score in the second period of the Rangers’ eventual 5-3 win in Game 6. He’s resumed his usual penalty-killing responsibilities without missing a beat. Additionally, Lindgren and his physical presence have been felt by the Penguins.
The Rangers have also reaped the benefits of Tyler Motte’s reinsertion into the lineup after the trade-deadline acquisition missed the last 10 games of the regular season and the first five games of this series with an upper-body injury. Motte makes the Rangers fourth line a bit faster and stronger on the forecheck, while also killing penalties to give some of the big guns a break.
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“Real good,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of Motte after Game 6. “Real excited to see him play that way. He didn’t play a whole lot of minutes but he felt great. And every time I asked him, he said, ‘No, I’m ready to go, coach.’ He was good and he’s an important guy for us no doubt.”
There are 12 Rangers who had played in a Game 7 prior to Sunday’s winner-take-all matchup. Justin Braun and Chris Kreider led the club with the most Game 7 appearances (6). Gallant has coached in one Game 7, when he was the bench boss in Vegas and the Golden Knights lost in overtime to the Sharks in 2019. Coincidentally, Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal.
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