EDMONTON -- After a 5-3 loss to the Oilers Tuesday night that featured more misplays in front of the Rangers cage -- as some players continue to struggle with a new system -- coach Alain Vigneault said he had changed gears and likely would make cuts as soon as Wednesday rather than wait until the end of this four-game road trip on Friday.
"I thought we carried the play for a good part of the night, but at the same time, when you watch the games, some players are falling behind a little bit as far as far as the pace and step of the NHL," Vigneault said. "So there is a chance we might decide to accelerate the process of getting down our numbers. I'll talk to Glen [Sather] here a little bit on the way to Vancouver. We had said we were going to keep everybody for the entire trip, but we might decide otherwise."
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The team has 39 players on the roster, and although Vigneault did not reveal a number, many teams are already down to 30 or below. The Rangers have only two more preseason games, Thursday in Vancouver and Friday against the Kings in Las Vegas, and the thinking apparently is to have a core group of players who will start the season on Oct. 3.
On two of the Oilers goals, defenseman Aaron Johnson was beaten down the ice, and Blueshirts forwards often lost contact with Edmonton players in front of Martin Biron, leading to goals or scoring chances. Biron, who was starting his second preseason game, had one glaring error, allowing Ben Eager's slap shot from the left side, after he bolted from the penalty box, to clang the near post and bounce off his back and in for a 4-2 lead in the second period.
The score negated J.T. Miller's pretty tuck in of a rebound of Arron Asham's shot past Jason Labarbera that brought the Rangers to within 3-2 at 2:10 of the second period. Miller missed much of camp with a sore hamstring, but Vigneault liked what he saw of the center in his first action.
"If you look at his overall game, there were a lot of good parts to it," Vigneault said. "That line [Miller, Asham and Chris Kreider] spent a good part of the game in Edmonton's end, working their defense, working them down. I liked a lot of the parts of his game, and the fact that he can score is a good plus for a player."
Miller, who was one of former coach John Tortorella's favorite young players, said: "I just had to pretty much put everything I had on the table for this game and go from there. I had to pretty much make up for what I missed the last couple weeks."
Marc Staal, who led the team with five shots on goal, scored his second goal in two games, opening the scoring at 7:42 of the first period after Mats Zuccarello's forecheck forced Jeff Petry to hit the side of the net with a pass. Zuccarello retrieved the puck and fed Staal in the left circle. Dan Girardi scored a goal at 16:19 of the third with Tyler Pitlick in the box for high-sticking, the only tally in eight power-play opportunities.
"It's a little different preseason this year, with the road trip and kind of having two different teams," said Girardi of the 1-3 club. "We're just trying to do the best we can to get the system under our belt. You saw there were a couple mistakes but that's what happens when you have two teams and guys are fighting for spots. I think the next couple of games, maybe we'll get down to [one] team and get a full-team effort."