Rangers head coach David Quinn chose to remove Brendan Lemieux and Jack Johnson, who have played all four games this season, from the line-up for Sunday’s rematch against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Quinn has shown he has no tolerance for reckless punishment after benching Tony DeAngelo after his unsportsmanlike conduct against the Islanders at the season opener, and that trend will continue with Lemieux. In the middle of the second phase of the 4-3 defeat on Friday, Lemieux scored a trip penalty 3-1 against the Rangers.
« Lemieux is fine to play, we want to bring other people in, » Quinn said of one Zoom call. « I just think it’s after what happened the other day. I think he can play better too and I didn’t love the penalty he took. » But listen, he’s a big part of what we’re up to here. I know he’ll get back on track and do what he’s capable of. «
Colin Blackwell, who signed a two-year deal with Rangers in October and was on the team’s taxi squad, will make his red, white and blue debut in Lemieux’s position, with 33 NHL games in two seasons with the Predators will have to play Blackwell 27 games this season to qualify for the Rangers expansion draft. « I love his pace, I love his competitiveness, » said Quinn. « I just like it the way he is getting closer to the game. You’ll get an honest effort from him night after night. Obviously I’ve known him since his time at Harvard and always thought he was a really good player from afar. «
After Johnson left the Line-up is eliminated, Quinn turns back to Brendan Smith to take his place on the blue line. After Smith got an assist in the second game against the Islanders, Quinn believed his game broke in the 4-3 defeat to the Devils three nights later.
When asked if the move was more about Bringing Smith back on the line-up or having a problem with Johnson’s game, Quinn said it was a bit of both.
« Jack was solid for us in the first few games and thought he was having a bit of trouble the other day » said Quinn. “Smitty had a really good game and then I thought that I fell off a bit the second night. We have faith in all seven of our boys, it will be. Boys have to play well to stay in and I just thought it was the right move. “
Assistant coach Jacques Martin will meet his former team for the second time on Sunday evening after working as an assistant in Pittsburgh for seven years.
» He’s such a professional, « said Quinn. « He’s got a wealth of experience. He’s a great teacher. I love the things he does with our defenders and our [penalty shootouts]. He has a great demeanor and is just a good fit for us. »
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