It does not matter if the Rangers wanted to give key regulars a breather before the playoffs, because the club’s salary cap situation did not afford them the luxury of having extra players around.
So the Rangers’ postseason-ready lineup took the ice for the third straight game Thursday night — and lost 3-2 to the Maple Leafs to finish the regular season 47-22-13.
Maybe, in a world without a flat salary cap, certain players could have benefitted from a game off.
Maybe it would’ve ensured the freshest version of the Rangers going into the first round of the playoffs to face the Devils, especially after a recent shorthanded stretch.
Instead, they got another opportunity to develop chemistry, remain in a groove and continue building confidence.
Maybe staying warm will help the Rangers get off to a faster postseason start.
“We’ve got a lot of prep work done on the side, but we haven’t done anything,” head coach Gerard Gallant said when asked how much prep they’ve done on their potential playoff opponents. “The video guys did a lot of the prep work and that sort of thing. We know … [the Devils] very well, they know us very well, it’s not like you’re going to spend days trying to break down Jersey.”
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By game’s end Thursday, seven Rangers — Adam Fox, Barclay Goodrow, Kaapo Kakko, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, Jacob Trouba and Mika Zibanejad — had played in all 82 games this season.
It’s just the third time since 1958-59 and the second time since 2011-12 seven or more Rangers have appeared in every regular-season game.
Alexis Lafreniere, Jimmy Vesey and Braden Schneider all played 81 games, while Chris Kreider and K’Andre Miller skated in 79.
Filip Chytil and Ryan Lindgren, who were limited by injuries, finished with 73 and 62 games, respectively.
Ben Harpur, who was a healthy scratch for the third game in a row, appeared in 43 games.
“For the most part, I’m happy the way things went,” Gallant said of the end of the regular season. “There were a couple bad games with some bad periods, but overall, I’m real happy so far.”
Jaroslav Halak made his 24th and final regular-season start in goal and finished with 18 saves.
The Rangers are expected to be off Friday before returning to practice this weekend at MSG Training Center.