Alain Vigneault watched from the press box again Wednesday night as the Rangers played their final preseason game. The coach is trying to assess the candidates for a job as a seventh defenseman, a 13th forward, and whether center Kevin Hayes or J.T. Miller could fit as a right wing on the second line with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.
The decisions did not appear to get any easier for Vigneault and his staff, along with general manager Jeff Gorton. The Rangers have until Monday to trim the roster from 25 to 22.
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"We've been going back and forth on all the different scenarios, evaluating players' performance, trying to picture our team," Vigneault said before the Rangers beat the Bruins, 3-2, at Madison Square Garden. "We still have a couple more days, they're not easy decisions. What happens with our decision on defense might have something to do with what we decide to do up front. At this time, we haven't made up our mind."
Wednesday night defenseman Dylan McIlrath, a first-round draft choice in 2010, was tough on the back end. Raphael Diaz, more offensively gifted, set up Rick Nash's power-play goal in the third period. Diaz played 58 games with Calgary last season.
With 2:35 gone in the second period, the 6-5 McIlrath drilled Zac Rinaldo along the boards, but was whistled for charging. With six minutes left in the period, he dropped the gloves with Tyler Randell after some extracurricular activity in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
McIlrath, who improved in the second half of last season with Hartford (AHL), had a solid camp. But he is almost out of options and might not clear waivers if cut. In the 2010 draft, the Rangers passed on defenseman Cam Fowler in part because they believed they had a power-play quarterback in Michael Del Zotto, so they chose McIlrath. But McIlrath's career stalled with a series of injuries, including a dislocated kneecap that required surgery in July 2012.
Right wing J.T. Miller scored a goal. He was moved to the third line from the second to give center Kevin Hayes another look on the right side with Stepan and Kreider.
"No one's really grabbed that spot with Step and Kreids," Vigneault said before the game. Hayes was not much of a factor. And neither was Tanner Glass, who carries a $1.45-million cap charge. Emerson Etem, acquired from Anaheim for Carl Hagelin, and fighting for a fourth-line spot, had little impact.
Oscar Lindberg, the 23-year-old Swedish center, won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Trophy Award as top rookie in Rangers camp. Lindberg was the unanimous choice in a vote by New York writers and broadcasters.