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Need for toughness could keep Matt Beleskey around

New York Rangers left wing Matt Beleskey sets

New York Rangers left wing Matt Beleskey sets before a face-off against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.

When Rangers forward Boo Nieves suffered a head injury after taking a hard hit from Devils defenseman Eric Gryba in the Blueshirts’ first preseason game Monday night in Newark, the only Ranger to address it on the ice was Jesper Fast, who went up to Gryba and had a brief discussion with him.

Should there have been more of a response by the Rangers? The hit by Gryba was high, and Nieves, who has a history of concussions, is now in concussion protocol. But the game was tied 3-3 midway through the third period (the Rangers won, 4-3, in overtime) and provoking a fight at that point might not have been the best thing.

“It’s just, sometimes situational,’’ rugged forward Matt Beleskey, who was not in the lineup Monday, said Tuesday. “And if I’m on the ice, I’m probably going to try and do that — in a way that doesn’t hurt our team. But [fighting’s] not what it’s all about, obviously. But, I think, letting guys on your team know you’re going to be there, that is a good thing.’’

The Rangers did a much better job of that in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the Flyers at the Garden. Both Beleskey, a 30-year-old veteran acquired in a trade with the Bruins last season, and defenseman Brendan Smith stepped up in the third period and engaged Flyers players who had roughed up a teammate.

Beleskey, who is very much on the bubble as far as making the team, had scored the Rangers’ first goal, in the first period, so he had already made his mark. But when Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg checked Ranger forward Ryan Gropp into the boards early in the third, Beleskey gave Hagg a shove to let him know he didn’t appreciate the hit.

Rangers prospect Brett Howden also shoved Hagg. Later, when Flyers forward Carsen Twarynski punched Smith’s defense partner, John Gilmour, Smith charged right in and confronted Twarynski. Both players got roughing penalties for their brief altercation.

Notes & quotes: The Rangers had their first day off since training camp began, but they did make a roster move, returning 19-year-old D Joey Keane to his junior team, the Barrie Colts of the OHL. The move reduced the roster to 44, including 14 defensemen. Keane, one of two third-round picks the Rangers made in this summer’s draft, made a favorable impression on coach David Quinn during camp. Keane played 13 minutes in Wednesday’s game. He had two shots and was a minus-2.

New York Sports