VANCOUVER, British Columbia — In Gerard Gallant’s latest attempt to get more out of Alexis Lafreniere, the Rangers head coach demoted him to the fourth line during practice Thursday at the University of British Columbia.
“He’s a young kid, we want him to do better and make sure he’s working hard,” Gallant said before the Rangers traveled to Edmonton later Thursday. “We chatted with the kid the other day, you go out there and work hard and see what happens. He wants to do more and we want a little more from him. That’s on both sides of the puck.
“He’s a good kid and I always come back to him being young, but we got to grow up a little bit and you got to play a mature game.”
Lafreniere, who started the season on the top-line next to Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, ran into some rough games that led him to create the third unit with Sammy Blais and Filip Chytil. In the Rangers’ lopsided loss to the Flames on Oct. 25, Gallant flipped Lafreniere with Julien Gauthier and then singled out the former first-overall pick, saying he needed more from him.
Lafreniere’s most recent gaffe came in the third period against the Canucks on Tuesday, when his failed clearing attempt led to Vancouver’s game-tying goal from Vasily Podkolzin that ultimately forced overtime and allowed the Canucks to complete their comeback.
There’s an argument to be made that Lafreniere’s four points in 10 games (three goals, one assist) — including two game-winning goals — aren’t numbers worth panicking over. But it’s clear Gallant believes he can get more out of Lafreniere.
Gallant answered the question, “Is it to send him an email?”
“No, it’s about us trying to win games and putting him in the best spot available,” he said. “Not really a message, coaches make up lines every day. If he takes it as a message, that’s great.”
Ryan Reaves remains “day-to-day” with an undisclosed lower-body injury, but Gallant said he’s still waiting to hear from the training staff on whether he is good to play.
The Rangers will need to make the appropriate roster move in order to activate Reaves from injured reserve. This could be Greg McKegg or another player being demoted to AHL Hartford. Kevin Rooney would likely fill in for McKegg as the fourth-line centre if McKegg was to be traded to the Wolf Pack.