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Rangers' Brett Howden looks to build on solid '18-19 season

Nick Leddy #2 of the Islanders and Brett

Nick Leddy #2 of the Islanders and Brett Howden #21 of the Rangers battle for the puck during the first period of a preseason game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.  Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

In the Rangers’ locker room at their practice facility in Tarrytown, New York, Brett Howden and Lias Andersson have stalls next to each other. On the ice, their games mirror each other, as both are two-way centers who win faceoffs, play sound in their own end, drive the net on offense, kill penalties and play on the power play.

Howden, 21, beat out Andersson a year ago and earned a roster spot out of training camp. He spent the entire season with the Rangers, and played in 66 games, scoring six goals, with 17 assists for 23 points. But he isn’t taking anything for granted this training camp.

“No, no, definitely not,’’ he said Tuesday, before the Rangers played their fourth preseason game, this time at the Garden against the Islanders. “My mindset is I want to make the team . . . Nothing’s given to you. You’ve got to work for everything you get. And, I truly believe that.’’

Howden centered the second line, between teenage sensations Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov. Kravtsov scored the first goal of the game in the Rangers’ 3-1 victory.

“I’m excited to play with these caliber players,’’ Howden said. “So highly skilled and so smart – they think the game well, and they’re so young. I mean, they’re – I’m young, and they’re younger than me. So, it’s pretty crazy.’’

Meanwhile, Andersson, who scored a goal in the preseason opener versus the Devils last week and who hit the goalpost in the final minute of Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia, played on a fourth line Tuesday, between Micheal Haley and Danny O’Regan, neither of whom figures to make the team. Andersson did play on the penalty kill and on the second power-play unit – with Howden.

With Mika Zibanejad locked in as the No. 1 center, all the spots behind him are open to be won. Filip Chytil, 20, currently is penciled in as the No. 2 center, with Howden and Andersson battling to determine the third and fourth spots – though coach David Quinn said all three players still need to make the team, and one could be switched to the wing.

Andersson, who turns 21 in three weeks, said he is a different player and person than the one who started last season in Hartford (AHL). He’s lost weight – 188 pounds now, compared to 205 a year ago – and he feels quicker and stronger.

“I think I’ve grown as a person, and learned what’s important in life, you know, with working out, and training, and nutrition and everything,’’ he said. “I’ve been growing up and being a little more like a man, and not a kid anymore. I’m, trying to be more of a pro this year.’’

Blue Shorts: Kravtsov scored the first goal, Artemi Panarin the second and third (empty net) goals for the Rangers. Brady Skjei assisted on the first two . . . Henrik Lundqvist started in goal and played 29:48, stopping all 14 shots he faced. Alexandar Georgiev replaced him, and stopped nine of 10 shots. Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders at 12:07 of the third.

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