Rangers’ top four will likely look different as necessary Sunday afternoon vs Red Wings. Ryan Lindgren, who stopped training on Saturday Bruins . sustained an upper body injurywas deemed questionable to play.
That’s a rarity for a group whose main pairs have not fundamentally changed over the past two seasons, but the choice ahead of Rangers coach Gerard Gallant comes down to whether he prefers to keep Kendri Miller and Jacob Tropa together or move Miller. To play alongside Adam Fox, with another person – presumably Zack Jones or Lepor Hagke – to Trouba’s left.
One option was ruled out by Gallant on Saturday: Braden Schneider played for Fox and required someone to play on his team.
Miller skated with Fox for most of the practice on Saturday, although that came with the warning that Trouba had a maintenance day.
“Don’t go the D route today,” Gallant said.
So there will be some intrigue during Sunday’s warm-up, although the option of playing Miller and Fox together is baffling enough to warrant close examination.
Per Natural Stat Trick, Miller and Fox have been on the ice together for 173:37 in five against five since the start of the 2020-21 season and they have a 51.82 goal percentage together. However, more than half of that time came in 2020-21, when Miller was a rookie rather than a top-of-the-pair defensive player averaging 22:04 per game. The two also skied together in pre-season this year against the islanders, when Troupa and Lindgren sat down.
“I sit on the bench and watch him do what he does 99% of the time,” Miller told The Post. “I think it would be great to have the experience of playing with him. A highly skilled player, we will make the most of him, and have fun.”
The Rangers position has been so luxurious that Lindgren’s loss means they will get the role of Fox, the 2021 Norris Award winner, with Miller, who may contend for that honor in the future. Coaches like to say that there is no such thing as a top pair. Galant could do that with credibility.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” Gallant said of the ripple effects of Lindgren’s injury. “It’s not like K’Andre and Trouba are these guys’ second violins. They’re a huge part of our group. I put these four against anyone.”
Shaking things up by necessity is never perfect. However, this situation may help the guards, who have not been working their best lately. A 5-2 loss to the Bruins on Thursday in the park saw their record slipped to 6-4-2.
If this defensive change pays off, the most important factor for Miller and Fox is communicating with each other when they get used to these things being automatic.
“When you’ve been playing with someone for a long time, obviously there are little things that you don’t even need to talk about,” Miller said. “It’s just talk without words, really. You make eye contact and you know what the other person is doing. Playing with someone new, I always try to talk a little more, and tell them where I am, and where the pressure is.”
The Rangers are not exaggerating the possibility of this scenario. Instead, Fox echoed Miller’s language that it would be a rare opportunity to play alongside someone who often admires their game from afar.
“You see what he’s doing there, the way he skates and the way he defends is good too,” Fox said. “I’m there with him [Saturday]Like I said earlier, a lot of communication and trying to feed each other.”
No matter who Fox is with on Sunday, the only adjustment he’ll make will be in his communication style – not his play.
“It’s not like you’re going to change the way you play so much based on who you are,” Fox said. We have played games with other partners in the past years. I think it’s nothing new for us.”