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Alain Vigneault happy to see Mats Zuccarello back on the ice

Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers controls

Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers controls the puck in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, April 18, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A quick dispatch with observations from Saturday's Rangers camp and what's ahead:

Good news on Mats Zuccarello in his recovery from a skull fracture in April. He was on a line with Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller and led the stretches at the end of the group's drills.

"I liked seeing him out there," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We all know what he had to go through; and for him to be back with his teammates, no restrictions, it's a great day for the New York Rangers.

"I'm not going to play him the first couple [preseason] games, I want to make sure he make he has four, five, six practices, under his belt. He's definitely going to play two or three of the last four."

When Zuccarello zipped a high wrister past backup goalie Antti Raanta, he spun his stick like a sword and stuck it into his imaginary scabbard in a playful way.

First day of drills

Three groups of players went through the various drills, no scrimmages, starting around 10 a.m. The first two groups were mostly veterans and players getting looks and with chances to make the team. Team C players will be among the initial reassignments.

"After the first two [preseason] games," Vigneault said, "a lot of people near Group C will be going back to juniors or Hartford."

After four games, cuts will leave fewer than 30 players, and after the last game [Sept. 30 against the Bruins], "we're going to be close," to the roster limit, he said.

Expect short scrimmages Sunday, Vigneault said, "because some of these guys are going to play Monday [against the Devils at MSG], and "four to six guys" are going to play back-to-back, in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Getting in shape

Rick Nash, Dominic Moore, and Brady Skjei were singled out for being in terrific shape. Skjei, the defenseman who was named captain of the Traverse City prospects tournament team, "really surprised us with his testing score." Nash and Moore tested better than last fall.

Line pairings

Among the initial lines and d-pairs (they'll change):

Team A

Fwd: Kreider-Stepan-Nash; Bourque-Lindberg-Fast; Gibbons-Luke-Megma; Glass-Moore-Oleksuk

Def: Yandle-Girardi; McDonagh-McIlrath, Summers-Boyle; Andersson-Zamorsky

G: Lundqvist, Malcolm

(Note: The decision on whether the 6-5 Kevin Hayes will remain at center may come down to how well Miller plays in the top six. Vigneault said his "first instinct" is that he likes a "big third-line center" behind Stepan and Brassard.)

Team B

Fwd: Miller-Brassard- Zuccarello; Stalberg-Hayes-Nejezchleb; Hrivik-Stoll-Etem; Hart-Tambellini-Kabanov.

Def: Skjei-Klein; Staal-Diaz; Bodie-Graves, Bellemore-Hughes

G: Raanta, Hellberg

Blue notes

Oscar Lindberg was outstanding in stickhandling and battles on his shifts, despite repeatedly getting sticked and crunched along the boards by Dan Girardi, and fired a wicked one-timer past Henrik Lundqvist . . . Dylan McIlrath, drafted in 2010 and playing his best since then, was working very hard, and the organization really hopes he can make an impression. Seems it's between him, Diaz and Summers for a spot on defense . . . Klein drilled Richard Nejezchleb into the boards so hard that his jersey's name sticker came off and stuck between two glass panels . . . Did not see anything striking from Emerson Etem, Viktor Stalberg or Jarret Stoll.

New York Sports