DALLAS — Coach Alain Vigneault is more than willing to play the hot hand, and that could be very good news for fans who want to see more of Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey in big-game situations.
Vigneault said Thursday that his decision to double-shift Vesey in the third period of Tuesday night’s loss to the Blackhawks depended entirely on who he thought would give the Rangers the best chance to win. Based on the 23-year-old forward’s performance, Vesey could be getting more of those chances down the line.
“Depending on the schedule, you need to shorten your bench, you go with who you feel [are] your top players,” Vigneault said. “There was no doubt in my mind that Jimmy was having a real strong game . . . using his speed, going to the net.”
Vesey had seven shots on goal in the 2-1 loss — three more than his previous career high — and played 10 of his 17 shifts in the third period.
Performances such as Tuesday night’s indicate that the Rangers weren’t wrong in pursuing their aggressive courtship of Vesey. They also demonstrate that he is getting more acclimated to the NHL after a handful of benchings.
Entering Thursday night, he was one of only three NHL rookies who had scored at least 10 goals this season. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Toronto’s Auston Matthews were the other two.
“He had, I would say, six scoring chances by himself, which is a huge number,” Vig neault said. “I was hoping he would be able to finish one.”
Matt Puempel (concussion) was taken off injured reserve Thursday in case he was needed, but he eventually was scratched.