Among all the disappointed players wandering around in a fog in the Rangers’ locker room at Breakup Day last spring, after the Blueshirts’ season had come to an end with a first-round playoff loss to the Devils, perhaps the most broken-hearted was Artemi Panarin.
Panarin, who’d led the Rangers in scoring in the regular season, and who’d had two assists in the Blueshirts’ 5-1 victory in Game 1, had gone scoreless the rest of the series as the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead and lost in seven games. Looking back, he says now it was the most disappointing playoff exit he’d ever experienced.
“Yeah, I think so,’’ he said at the end of the first week of training camp. “I felt terrible last year, because we were in a situation where we could have won the Cup. I mean, (that’s what) we thought. We had a great team, and in the loss like that, after leading 2-0, and especially my performanc . . . I don't have to say anything.’’
Panarin was to have made his preseason debut Friday against the Islanders at UBS Arena, but the game was postponed due to heavy rains and flooding. So the 31-year-old Russian will have to wait until Saturday to play his first game since May 1. His new coach, Peter Laviolette, is looking forward to it.
“It's important for the players that haven't played to get in and start to do good things, and make the mistakes in the system, and what they're learning,’’ Laviolette said Friday, before the game was postponed. “I'm glad he's in [Saturday], because he now gets to be a part of what we're doing, with regard to how we're going to play, and an identity that we're looking for.’’
The new-look Panarin, who shaved off his signature curly locks over the summer and is now going with a bald head, said he worked out especially hard this summer — including putting in more work in the weight room. Coming back to a new coach, he said he likes Laviolette’s offense, with all that cycling in the offensive zone
“That looks like Russian hockey,’’ he said
. As far as the defensive system, he said he’s played in a similar system in the past, so he can handle it.
Notes & quotes: The Rangers assigned four players to AHL Hartford, including forward Bobby Trivigno, of Setauket. The others were D Nikolas Brouillard and forwards Karl Henriksson and Ryder Korczak. Ds Adam Clendening and Blake Hillman were released from their tryouts, and Hillman will report to Hartford. In addition, Alex Belzile, Turner Elson, Ty Emberson, Connor Mackey, Riley Nash, and Anton Blidh were placed on waivers. The moves leave 36 players on the roster.