GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Two new lines made quite an impression at Rangers training camp on Sunday, and at least one of the trios will likely play against the Islanders in the preseason opener at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Center Mika Zibanejad, acquired from Ottawa, excelled between Chris Kreider and Russian prospect Pavel Buchnevich, scoring multiple times in practice.
“If they are the way they were in practice, “ coach Alain Vigneault said with a laugh, “they’e going to be a handful. They were by far the best line and the three best players today. Both offensively and defensively they made a lot of things happen. They’re definitely a line we’re going to keep together and probably will be playing together in one of the next two games. They were excellent, all three of them used their skill, their speed.”
Center Kevin Hayes played between Jimmy Vesey and Rick Nash for the second day and continued to display some chemistry as well.
As far as conditioning, Vigneault said Hayes was the most improved in the testing since last year. “Kevin did everything he was supposed to do this summer to get in the best possible shape and have the best possible attitude, he said. “It’s a great step in the right direction. Compared to his scores from last year, you can tell he was very committed.”
Raanta will be busy
Henrik Lundqvist’s run with Sweden at the World Cup is over, but backup goaltender Antti Raanta still will play numerous exhibition games.
Vigneault indicated that Lundqvist’s timetable will depend on a discussion when he returns from Toronto. Sweden was eliminated by Team Europe in overtime on Sunday. So Mats Zuccarello will be the only Ranger in the best-of-three finals. Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller will be at camp in the next day or so.
The club’s other netminders should get considerable ice time in the preseason. “As far as goaltending potential, this organization is in a very good place,” Vigneault said. “We probably want to get a look to see what they can do against NHL competition.”
The two jobs in Hartford will probably go to Mackenzie Skapski and Magnus Hellberg. Brandon Halverson, who struggled in the Traverse City tournament, is another possibility, although he could start the season in Greenville.
Vigneault said that netminders will not split time after the first or second games. “I think goaltenders are better to evaluate in full games,” he said.
The first cuts in the 63-man camp will come either before or after Tuesday’s game. Vigneault said he wants to keep enough players for two full teams, because there will be four games in six nights starting after Thursday’s game against the Devils.