NEWARK - With the Rangers down 1-0 at the end of the first period in Alain Vigneault’s preseason debut behind the bench Monday night, the coach waited quietly until the players had walked, single file, into the corridor leading to the locker room.
He scratched his head, perused his notes and then gave Chris Kreider, at the end of the line, an encouraging tap on the pants.
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“You always play to win,” Vigneault said before the Rangers’ 2-1 loss to the Devils. “Tonight we’ll play to win, but it’s also about putting guys on the ice in any moment to see how they react: Can they make the right play at the right times in the right areas? You’ve got to give them that opportunity.”
Among the players who will get opportunities are Kreider and veterans Brad Richards and Rick Nash.
That line was active throughout; Richards was robbed by Devils goalie Cory Schneider in the second when the center had an open net, and Nash, taking the puck to the net and posting up in front of the crease on the power play, was pretty involved for an exhibition game.
“The reality is,” said Vigneault, “[Kreider’s] one of the Rangers’ high-end prospects. Size, skill, we want to give him every opportunity to show what he can do. By putting him with Brad and Rick, we’re certainly showing our hand a little bit here that you’re getting a good opportunity, let’s see what you can do.”
Vigneault, who coached Vancouver for seven seasons and ranks 26th on the NHL’s all-time regular-season wins list with 422, was unruffled behind the bench, unlike his predecessor, John Tortorella, who displayed his emotions freely, even in a preseason game. In fact, much of the evening, Vigneault consulted associate coach Scott Arniel, who diagramed plays during breaks and spoke with players, particularly Richards.
“I’m smart enough to know my role on this team is to create offense and be that type of player,” Richards said before the game. “It’s brand new, he’s [Vigneault] seen enough of me over the years to get going with a fresh and clear mind.”
Notes: Henrik Lundqvist stopped 14 of 15 shots before leaving with 9:14 remaining in the second period for Cam Talbot, who allowed a goal 31 seconds into the third by Eric Gelinas . . . Dominic Moore, in his first game for the Rangers since 2005-06, scored at 4:39 of the third.