In a significant, if temporary, defensive shuffle, Brendan Smith, who struggled in the Rangers’ 8-5 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, was benched Sunday in favor of Nick Holden and Steve Kampfer who debuted as a third pairing.
“I know it’s not standard, 11-7 [playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen], but three games in four nights, I wanted to get guys a couple more minutes, and felt it’s important to [play] them [Holden and Kampfer],” Vigneault said. “I’m not singling Smitty out, but I felt he can be better and he knows that.”
Holden and Kampfer each played just over 17 minutes.
Smith, who agreed to a four-year, $17.4-million contract last summer after being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline last March, was on for three first-period goals, one on a power play when Jake Gardiner waltzed past him down the middle and on a second power-play tally in the third. He finished with two shots and no credited hits in 14:49. Against the Avalanche, Smith was shotless with two giveaways in 16:28 and was on the ice for a power-play goal against.
Brady Skjei, who had been paired with Smith, was partnered with Kevin Shattenkirk, and Skjei scored in the first period. Marc Staal skated with Ryan McDonagh.
Tony DeAngelo, who has been on the second power-play unit, was on for 2:08 with the man advantage in the second. Asked about DeAngelo’s defensive flaws, Vigneault said: “I think the competition has gotten better [than in the preseason]. As with any young players there’s a learning curve, and Anthony’s gonna be fine.”
Rookie center Filip Chytil, 18, who played just nine shifts in 4:59 on Saturday, sat for the first time in three games. He can play nine games before burning a year on his entry-level contract, and if he doesn’t play regularly, the youngster apparently will be sent back to his Czech team. “It’s day by day, we need to do the right thing with him, I’m going to talk with [GM] Jeff (Gorton) tomorrow and we’ll see what happens,” Vigneault said.