BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A few days after Lias Andersson scored two goals in the Rangers’ first preseason game last Monday against the Devils, Rangers coach David Quinn was asked what the 19-year-old center could do for an encore.
“Well, the thing he’s done for an encore is he’s followed up with two really good practices since the game,’’ Quinn said Friday as the Rangers prepared for Saturday’s preseason game vs. the Islanders in Bridgeport. “And he just looks more confident, and more comfortable. I think that was a big monkey off his back to have that type of game. I think it kind of loosened him up a little bit.’’
Andersson, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, was scoreless Saturday when the Rangers lost, 5-2, to the Islanders. He had been hoping to build on his first game success — a performance he credited Quinn with helping set the stage for. Prior to that game, Quinn chatted briefly with Andersson, whom he worried might be a little stressed out because of the weight of the organization’s expectations for him.
“He brought me in and just said to, ‘Play your game, and do your thing,’ and tried to, kind of, calm me down a little bit,’’ Andersson said of Quinn. “And I really appreciated that. I mean, I felt 20 pounds lighter when I walked out of that room. To be able to talk to the coach and get some feedback and know that he believes in me and he sees good things and he wants me to improve in a couple things — it just felt so good to be able to get all the thinking in my head out of the way and just focus on the practices and the games. I feel good.’’
Andersson wouldn’t admit to feeling pressure to make the team, but did allow that he may have been “thinking too much, instead of doing my thing out there.’’ A 6-1, 204-pounder who wins faceoffs, kills penalties and generally plays a responsible two-way game, he didn’t make the club a year ago, instead going back to his native Sweden for the first half of the season, and he says now he may have been thinking too much then, too. After captaining Sweden’s silver medal team at the World Junior Championships, he returned to North America to play for the Hartford Wolf Park (AHL) before coming up to the Rangers at the end of the season.
This year though, Andersson’s sights are set on sticking with the Rangers.
“I want to be here, in this [Rangers] locker room, for 82 games this year,’’ Andersson said. “And I’m trying to show, every practice and every game, that I really want that spot. And I’ve just got to go out and do my thing and be a solid, solid player. I’m not expecting to score two goals every game, I’m just expecting to play a solid game and be a guy you can trust out there and take faceoffs and hopefully, score a couple goals, too.’’