Rangers defensemen lead the league in unexpected category

LAS VEGAS — Not a misprint: The Rangers have the most points in the league by defensemen.

In what has been a pleasant surprise for the Blueshirts, their blue line has put up an NHL-best 86 points through the first 29 games, which includes the ninth time in franchise history that all six defensemen registered at least a point in the same game as they opened their four-game western road trip with a 5-0 win over the Golden Knights on Sunday.

“This modern-day NHL, you need five guys involved offensively,” coach David Quinn said. “We’ve got the ability to have some of our guys get involved offensively. But some of it came off good defense.”

Jacob Trouba led the way with a goal and an assist while playing a game-high 25:03, while the other five all picked up assists. Trouba has at least one point in five of the past six games (two goals, five assists) and has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the past 10 games.

Vitali Kravtsov, who the Rangers took with the No. 9-overall pick from 2018, was demoted from the KHL team he was playing for in Russia, Traktor, to their minor league affiliate. He reportedly got only one shift in the past two games for Traktor and had two goals and one assist in 11 games.

Soon after the 19-year-old Kravtsov didn’t make the Rangers out of training camp, he used the European Assignment Clause in his contract to leave AHL Hartford and return to his native country. He was supposed to spend the whole season there, with the chance to come back when the regular season was completed at the end of February (right after the NHL trade deadline).

Quinn juggled his lines again, as 18-year-old rookie Kaapo Kakko went to the top line with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, while Ryan Strome went to the wing with Chris Kreider and Filip Chytil.

That left Brendan Lemieux with Brett Howden and Pavel Buchnevich, along with an effective fourth line of Brendan Smith-Greg McKegg-Jesper Fast.

“If I was a betting man, I’d say you’re going to see the same four lines,” Quinn said about the next game, Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Forward Micheal Haley was a healthy scratch, the only extra player the Rangers are carrying this trip — which doesn’t seem like it will change, barring an injury, as the team plays every other day over the next week.

“We have the days in between, so if we do need someone here, it’s not that difficult to get someone here,” Quinn said. “If we had some back-to-backs, it might be different.”

For more on the Rangers, listen to the latest episode of the “Up In The Blue Seats” podcast:

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