Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant speaks to the media at the...

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant speaks to the media at the team's training facility in Tarrytown, N.Y., on Wednesday. Credit: Errol Anderson

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Rangers coach Gerard Gallant was willing to admit Wednesday that the Blueshirts’ getting to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring exceeded the expectations he had when he took over a year ago. But as training camp officially opened for 2022, he wouldn’t say if he expects the team to duplicate what it accomplished last season.

“Last spring is over,’’ Gallant said, the day before the first official on-ice workouts. “Did we have those expectations last year? Probably not. I can't lie to you, I didn't. We had a great run. We played great hockey. I know we were a good team. But we beat some great teams ...  in the playoffs.

“So it's a great experience for our players to get that playoff run and all that, but that means nothing. There's a lot of teams that are going to be a lot better this year in our division. So from Day 1, your goal is to try and make the playoffs. It's not like we won 52 games (in 2021-22), we're going to win 60 this year. I mean, I wish that was the case, but that's not how I'm looking at it.’’

Gallant, clearly more comfortable with the media now than he was when he first took over the job, playfully said he will be pushing Chris Kreider, who scored a career-high 52 goals in 2021-22, to do that again. But his tongue was no doubt in cheek.

However, Gallant said the Rangers should be better than they were a season ago because their young players – defensemen K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider, and forwards Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko – should be even better than they were last season.

“We're not a young team anymore,’’ he said. “We're getting a little more experienced. And the kids are 22, 23 and 21 now, instead of 19, 20, and 21. So they're growing. K’Andre Miller's getting to be a man now. You've seen the growth of those kids in the second half of (last) season and in the playoffs. I think they'll all be better players, and that'll benefit our hockey team.’’

The core of the team is very familiar to last season, except with free agent signee Vincent Trocheck replacing Ryan Strome as the second-line center. Mika Zibanejad, Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox and new captain Jacob Trouba are all back and in the prime of their careers. The line of Lafrenière, Chytil and Kakko was the team’s most dynamic in the playoffs, and expectations are that Lafrenière, who scored 19 goals in his first full NHL season last year, will step up into a role in the top two forward lines this season.

He won’t be there for practice Thursday, though. When Gallant and his staff were putting together line combinations and defense pairings for Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage, they decided to keep Lafrenière, Chytil and Kakko together for the first few days. That keeps Lafrenière at left wing for the moment. If he is to elevate to the top line, with Zibanejad and Kreider, he will need to switch to right wing.

That will most likely happen when the preseason games begin next week. For now, Sammy Blais, fully healthy after tearing his ACL last season, will play right wing on the top line, and 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov will play right wing on the second line with Panarin and Trocheck.

Gallant was asked if he has any concerns about the team as camp opens.

“I'm not concerned one bit right now,’’ he said. “No, I like our team a lot.’’

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