6:23PM: David Quinn said earlier today:
- Is it possible that tonight’s right shot group is what starts the year, “it’s a possibility but Smitty and I have talked about him playing forward, a lot of forward, this year. It all depends, a lot can happen between now and October 3rd.”
- On Fox, “he has stood out in general. As I’ve talked with him and our staff, when we acquired him, the question was could he handle the defending end of it and his skating and the pace of play and I was never concerned that he wouldn’t eventually be able to do it, but how soon and so far it’s been very soon.”
- On Lias Andersson, “he is certainly quicker, he doesn’t get as tired, he’s in great shape. I think he is understanding the type of player he is going to need to be to have the success we know he is capable of having at this level and I give him a lot of credit as he’s put an awful lot of work into it. I’ve said this not only about him but about our young players, people tend to lose sight that these players are kids. Just because they are in an NHL jersey and NHL camp, people assume they are adults. That isn’t the case. He’s 20-21 and taken a big leap in the last year.”
- On Lias’ progression, “One of the things we talked with him in his exit interview was the progress he made in the second half of the season in a lot of areas. I liked the direction of his game when he got called up at the end of the year. I loved what he was doing away from the rink to take better care of his body and understand that conditioning is a huge piece of being an NHL player and it’s not just working hard in the rink, it’s what are you doing those other 21-hours you aren’t at the rink. You need to be a pro 24-7 and I think he took that to heart and changed his eating habits and how he took care of himself and it certainly showed in the second half of the season.”
- On Mika as a mentor to Lias, “they have a great relationship and Mika has done a heck of a job mentoring him. It actually cost me a dinner at Tao last year when I walked in and those two were having dinner and I was nice enough to buy them dinner. Mika cares about Lias and wants him to do well because he knows what he is capable of doing. The Swedish connection is strong and Mika has established himself in the league. Mika was in a similar position to Lias, Mika didn’t do a great job taking care of himself early in his career and conditioning was an issue and he jokes about it now and reflects on how stupid he was earlier in his career about taking care of himself and not doing the things he is doing today.”
- On Mika’s conditioning being what help him take a leap, “without question. He’s a guy that can skate, is quick. He played a lot of minutes for us last year and rarely did I think that he looked tired. He played every game and we demanded a lot from him and put him in all key situations and there weren’t many, if any, where you thought that Mika looked tired.”
3:38PM: The Rangers open the preseason tonight at MSG with a lineup that is expected to feature forward lines of:
- Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko
- Chris Kreider, Lias Andersson, Vitali Kravtsov
- Greg McKegg, Danny O’Regan, Nick Jones
- Micheal Haley, Boo Nieves, Jake Elmer
Zibanejad said that he’s been waiting since July 1st to play in a game with Panarin and that “it’s going to be fun.” (Newsday)
David Quinn noted that Kakko being on the first line with Panarin and Zibanejad is only for tonight’s game and that Pavel Buchnevich will return to that spot going forward.
Zibanejad said that so far in training camp Kakko is “doing the little things” really well and that he’s “super skilled, can pass, shoot” and a hockey IQ “at a very high level.” (Newsday)
On defense, Brady Skjei will pair with Jacob Trouba, Libor Hajek will pair with Adam Fox, Brandon Crawley will pair with Brendan Smith and both Alex Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin are expected to split time in net.
The Devils are expected to field a lineup tonight that includes Nico Hischier, Nikita Gusev, Sami Vatanen and Cory Schneider. Neither Jack Hughes or PK Subban are expected to play for New Jersey. (Westcott)
Adam Rotter: It’s the Rangers first preseason game of six and they are certainly starting off the preseason with the players most of us are eager to see. Panarin, Trouba, Kakko, Kravtsov and Fox lead that list with Lias Andersson and Libor Hajek following. Both Andersson and Hajek have a chance for big roles to start the season and that begins tonight.
Brendan Smith is also an interesting guy to keep an eye on as David Quinn has noted he could be used in a similar way to how he was at the end of last season as both a defenseman and a forward. Smith could also end up in Hartford so, even with his versatility, he’s battling for a spot. Other guys on the bubble that could be of interest include Boo Nieves, Greg McKegg and Danny O’Regan. All three are signed for roughly the same amount, can play center and wing and one is likely to be the 13th forward.
It’s the first game of three in four nights for the Rangers so we should get a good look at where everyone is and where they may stack up in the next few days.