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New York Rangers season preview

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Mar. 27, 2016 in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, Greta Garbo made her American film debut in “Torrent” and Gene Tunney defeated Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight championship. General Electric, RCA and Westinghouse established NBC, and anti-freeze allowed cars to be operated year-round. In New York, the Rangers were born. Through numerous highs and many lows, the Blueshirts have endured. They will celebrate their 90th NHL season in 2016-17.


Chris Kreider

Was a beast in the preseason. Aggressive, speedy, firing bullets. With a four-year contract extension, wants to produce, be a leader.

Rick Nash. Motivated veteran missed two months last season with a leg injury and finished with 15 goals. If he’s healthy, many believe he can score 25-30 goals again and also help the penalty-kill.

Dan Girardi. Ironman top-four defenseman took a significant step back last season. Career of shot-blocking and physical play will reduce his role. Hobbled by a cracked knee cap last season, but his decision-making also suffered and was unable to keep pace with quicker young opponents. Says long summer of rest and workouts helped.


Mika Zibanejad, 23.

Skilled, strong center with great on-ice vision---and upside. Arrived from Senators in trade for Derick Brassard. A former first-round pick, 23, his goals and points have increased every season in his five-year career. His mom is originally from Finland; his dad played soccer and volleyball for Iran’s national team before family moved to Sweden, where he was born. Collects hats and Man U jerseys.

Pavel Buchnevich, 21. The Russian right wing, drafted in the 3rd round in 2013, played parts of the last three seasons in the KHL. He was here for six weeks this summer, living with a host family in Connecticut, working out with teammate Chris Kreider, and learning English from a phone app. Improved every game during the pre-season as he adjusts to smaller rinks and physical NHL game. Favorite meal? Home fries.

Jimmy Vesey, 23. Has the promise and the pressure. Harvard grad who won the Hobey Baker Award (the left wing had 55 goals in last two seasons to lead all college players) and opted not to sign with Nashville, the team that drafted him. After listening to free-agent offers from multiple teams, chose the Rangers because he saw a fit with the club and the city. The North Reading, Mass. native took six years of Mandarin (two in high school, four in college) and owns a black Labrador named Chloe.


Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller

Michael Grabner-Josh Jooris-Jesper Fast


1. Can Henrik Lundqvist carry the load again?

The Rangers will only go as far as the team’s No. 1 netminder can take them. It’s been the case for a decade. But at 34, has he lost a step.

2. Can the defense rebound after allowing giveaways that led to an avalanche of odd-man rushes and goals?

Aside from the acquisition of Colorado’s Nick Holden, the defense is essentially unchanged..

3. What about those special teams?

Shoot-first-type player Brandon Pirri and Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich should add some sparks to the power-play core of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Nash. The penalty-kill finished 26th last season and remains suspect.


Henrik Lundqvist

— 16 wins away from becoming the NHL all-time leader in wins by a European-born goaltender, passing Dominik Hasek (389).

— 26 wins from 400, a Rangers first.

Rick Nash

— 7 goals away from 400.

Alain Vigneault

— 34 wins away from 600.



Season opener vs. Islanders

Nov. 5

Jimmy Vesey, the Harvard free agent who decided to sign with the Rangers in August rather than his hometown Bruins, first returns to Boston, and then, on Dec. 17, the Blueshirts visit the Predators, the team that drafted Vesey and he also spurned. Expect some booing.

Nov. 20

Keith Yandle, who left for Florida and a seven-year, $44.45 million deal, returns the Garden.

Nov. 27

Derick Brassard returns with the Senators.

Dec. 12-15

The dreaded western Canada trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

March 1

The trade deadline.

April 8

Final game of regular season against Penguins, who ousted Rangers in playoffs last season.

New York Sports