BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — It was the first real audition for the man from Magnitogorsk.
As the battle shapes up for the final defense spots on the Rangers, Alexei Bereglazov, who played for his hometown team Metallurg in Russia’s KHL for four seasons, made his Rangers debut against the Islanders on Friday night.
Bereglazov, 23, who signed a two-year contract worth $925,000 per season as an undrafted free agent, will get an opportunity to stick in the next few games.
“We had some real good reports from European pro scouting personnel,” coach Alain Vig neault said before Friday night’s 2-1 Islanders victory at Webster Bank Arena. “He’s real steady, we were told, knew when to jump in the attack and was a real solid defender. He was OK in Traverse City [a preseason tournament], and has been in my estimation getting better every day. Part of that is he’s got to get used to a new [smaller] ice surface. Traverse City was a learning curve for him. That’s why we waited to play the first two games before we threw him in to get some practice time.”
Bereglazov, a lefty who played with Pavel Buchnevich in the 2014 Would Junior Championship for Russia, is 6-4 and 212 pounds, and was 1-18-19 in 60 games last season for Metallurg. He was paired on defense with Steven Kampfer, another candidate, Friday night.
Bereglazov played as advertised, defense-first, rarely advancing past the red line into the Islanders zone, and guarding the crease in the 2-1 loss to the Islanders. He tried an ill-advised diagonal pass that was easily picked off in midice in the first period, but competently blocked centering passes in his zone and was not on ice for a goal..
“This year, we feel our back end is going to be more mobile, more active with the puck,” Vig neault said. “He’s supposed to be a defender like Marc Staal, big, tough one-on-one, a good reach, good stick, we’ll see if he lives up to the billing.”
n Blue notes
With Jesper Fast (hip surgery) out until late October, about five forwards are in the mix for up to three lower-line spots, Vigneault said, including first-round draft picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, and Cristoval Nieves, who played in Hartford last season . . . Defensemen Sean Day and Sergei Zborovskiy and forward Dawson Leedahl were assigned to Hartford, and Adam Chapie was waived, leaving 46 players in camp.