Alexis Lafreniere doesn’t know what to expect.
The 2020 first-overall pick watched a lot of the NHL playoffs growing up in Canada. He’s heard about the intensity, how it’s just that much higher with the Stanley Cup up for grabs. The extra effort that’s expected throughout the lineup and how you have to be ready for every single shift.
“For me to play, it’s kind of surreal a little bit,” Lafreniere said after the Rangers’ practice on Monday ahead of Game 1 of Round 1 against the Penguins. “I’ll just try to enjoy it as much as I can and try to bring my best game.”
Lafreniere will have to get acclimated to the pace of the postseason and he’ll have to do it quickly. It certainly helps that the 20-year-old was contributing offensively over the final seven regular-season games or so. Lafreniere scored four goals and dished two assists over that span.
“Yeah I feel good about my game right now,” he said. “I’ll try to keep it going for playoffs, that’s what really matters. This season is something good, but you got to play good in the playoffs, too. That’s the main focus.
“It’s sure fun to finish the season on a good note, but the real season starts [Tuesday].”
The ‘Kid’ Line — featuring Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko — was reunited in the final two games of the regular season — and it appears that’s how they’ll line up on Tuesday. Over 28:13 of ice time together this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, the trio has been outscored 2-1.
The Rangers will need some offensive contributions from the bottom six. So much of the scoring responsibility has fallen on the top two lines this season. While the Kid Line originated under former head coach David Quinn last season, and briefly featured Julien Gauthier in Kakko’s place this season, it’s never quite stuck together for long.
The playoffs would be an ideal time for the three youngsters to effectively mesh together.
“It’s just to play as a unit and be together out there and work for each other,” Lafreniere said of the keys for his line. “That’s really what we want to do. We’ll try to bring our game to another level and be ready. We’re all trying to play a complete game, and if all three of us play a two-way game, I think it really helps. We’ll just try to all make plays — forechecking, back checking and play the game.”
Ryan Lindgren participated in practice Monday after taking off for what the team said were maintenance purposes the day before.
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Based off of practice the past couple days, it appears Ryan Reaves will get the nod over Dryden Hunt to forge a fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Barclay Goodrow. Gallant said he has an idea who he’ll go with, but still isn’t sure.
“We all know what Reaves brings to our team, but he brings more than what people see on the outside,” the coach said. “He’s an important guy. He’s a leader. He’s a character guy. He makes people pay a price [and] keeps people off our guys.”