Rangers Set to Choose Between Matt Rempe, 3 Other Forwards

Tony DeAngelo of the Carolina Hurricanes banged a Rangers rookie with an elbow to the head.

Getty Tony DeAngelo of the Carolina Hurricanes banged a Rangers rookie with an elbow to the head.

Another day, another game, another chance for the New York Rangers to clinch their place in the Eastern Conference finals as long as they can once and for all defeat the Carolina Hurricanes.

Judging by their recent results, however, that doesn’t sound like an easy feat to accomplish as the Rangers went up three games to none to start the second series but they proceeded two in a row after that entering Game 6 on May 16 with a tiny 3-2 advantage over the Canes.

On a positive note, however, Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette will have the full roster available for Game 6, including the foursome comprised of Matt Rempe, Filip Chytil, Jonny Brodzinski, and (perhaps not quite yet there in terms of fitness) Blake Wheeler.

Laviolette confirmed on May 15 after practice that everybody who practiced (that is, literally everybody all skaters except Chris Kreider–for maintenance reasons–took the ice) is eligible to play.

Laviolette said “Everyone who practiced today is a full go and in consideration,” according to USA Today’s Vince Mercogliano.  “How they’re feeling physically is a factor, but it’s a coach’s decision,” Mercogliano reported on Wednesday, May 15, after the Rangers practice ahead of Game 6.

Is Blake Wheeler Still Days Away From Returning?

Wheeler returned to full-contact practice with the rest of his teammates midway through the second-round series against Carolina. However, it might be too early for him to play an actual hockey game, let alone in the playoffs.

“We are working to get him up to speed and that’s where he’s at right now,” Laviolette told reporters on May 14, via the New York Post’s Ethan Sears. “So he’s full go at practice but as you have seen, he’s just recently gotten to this point and so we want to make sure that he’s in a position for success.”

With Laviolette nearly ruling out Wheeler for Game 6 with his comments after Game 5, it’s fair to assume one of Chytil, Rempe, or Brodzinski will get the nod.

Many Rangers Forwards for 1 Single Spot in the Lineup

With Chris Kreider expected to be available on Thursday after missing practice on Wednesday for maintenance reasons, that means the Rangers coach will have to pick one player among four options for the 12th and final forward spot in the Game 6 lineup.

The four players in contention are Rempe, Chytil, Brodzinski, and Wheeler. If the Rangers staff and coaches don’t think Wheeler, who has yet to make his postseason debut and has not played since February 15, is not fit enough, that reduces the conundrum to a three-man decision.

Chytil could find himself in a similar situation to Wheeler’s, however, as he missed Game 5 with what the team labeled an “illness” unrelated to prior concussion symptoms.

If Chytil can’t play on Thursday, May 16, then the decision will come down to whether Laviolette prefers veteran-and-skilled Jonny Brodzinski or if he sides with young-and-strong Matt Rempe for the final 12th spot.

No matter who ends up playing, he will do in the fourth line along with, most likely, Will Cuylle and Alex Wennberg.

Rangers’ Peter Laviolette Won’t Give Hurricanes Any Advantage

Laviolette praised all of them after practice on May 15, leaving the door open and not calling his shots beforehand to avoid giving Carolina any hint of his final decision ahead of puck drop on Thursday night.

“When (Rempe) has been in the lineup, our team has found ways to win, and he’s had a good impact,” Laviolette said, via Mercogliano. “I think Jonny the same thing when he comes in. They’re totally different players. They bring different elements, and they’re both options for us when we’re in the series here.

“I thought they both have done a good job, and we make decisions as we move game to game.”

Rempe is coming off playing 6:01 in Game 5 on Monday, May 13, in replacement of Brodzinski. In Game 4, however, Brodzinski played in replacement of both Rempe and Chytil and he got more third-period shifts (four) than Rempe had in three games (G1, G2, G5) combined (two).

All signs point toward Brodzinski getting that final 12th spot, even more with the Rangers playing on the road and not having the last-change advantage against the Hurricanes. What is certain is that we probably won’t know the final Rangers lineup until the pregame warmups of Thursday’s Game 6 in Raleigh.

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