Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Benoit Pouliot hopes to jell with Derick Brassard, Mast Zuccarello
If the Rangers trio of Benoit Pouliot, No. 67; center Derick Brassard, 16, and Mats Zuccarello, 36, clicks, one nominee for a nickname? The 666 line: A devilishly good combination.
The Rangers have seen what Brassard, a playmaker who led the team in points during the playoffs, and Zuccarello, the elusive Norwegian, can provide. Throw in Pouliot, 26, a 6-foot-3 left wing who doesn’t mind hanging in the tough areas, and you might have something brewing.
“I’ve liked him (Pouliot) so far,” said head coach Alain Vigneault before the Rangers faced the Flyers in the second of pre-season back-to-backs. “I’m not that familiar with him, but he’s used his speed and his size throughout camp, going to the net making plays; him and Brass seem to have a little bit of a connection, hopefully we’ll see that. We’re trying to get some chemistry, whether it’s duos or lines.”
Pouliot, who was drafted fourth overall by the Wild in 2005, said Tuesday that the Rangers had discussed a potential move to New York for three years, but he chose to play, first, in Boston, and last season in Tampa. “They (the Rangers) were always interested…This time, when they called, it didn’t take me too long to decide,” and signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract.
With 13 goals and 30 points in Montreal, and 16 goals and 32 points in Boston in 2011-12, the Ontario native has shown he can be productive if healthy, and the Rangers can use some heft on the left side---and in front. Vigneault said after Monday’s 2-1 loss in Newark that there wasn’t enough traffic near Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
“(Tampa coach) Guy Boucher told me right off the bat what he wanted me to do, what my role was: Going to the net, stopping in front,” he said. “I’m a big guy, I can create chaos in there. Most of my goals last year were right in the crease, you learn from that.”
Now, Pouliot, who scored eight goals and 20 points in 34 games last season but missed three weeks midway through the season with a separated right shoulder, is healthy. “You want to make a good first impression,” he said. “I’ve got a few preseason games to do that.”