In the first few preseason games, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he wanted to experiment with some youngsters on the power play. Free agent defenseman Adam Clendening and center Brandon Pirri had their turns at the points on Tuesday.
“We’re going to try people in spots where they’ve had success in the past,” Vigneault said.
After all, pre-season games are an opportunity to open some eyes. Although the line of center Mika Zibanejad (three points) Chris Kreider (two) and Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich continued to dazzle against the Islanders as they have in training camp, Clendening and Pirri, who are farther under the radar, spiced up the power play, which finished 14th in the NHL in 2015-16, in the 5-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Pirri and Clendening are too young to be classified as journeymen, but their road to New York at this stage of their careers has been winding.
Clendening, the Boston University defenseman who was a second-round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011 and has played 50 NHL games with the Blackhawks, Canucks, Penguins and Oilers, had two assists — one by setting up Zibanejad in the left circle on the first of two power play goals and Kreider at even strength. The 23-year-old certainly didn’t hurt his chances to catch on as a third-liner or a spare defenseman.
Pirri, 25, a Toronto native with his fourth club since 2013, (he called it a “plethora” of teams before the game), assisted on that Zibanejad marker and fired home a pass from him late in the second period on another power play.
Vigneault has acknowledged that Pirri, in a battle for a handful of forward spots, has a chance to contribute like Benoit Pouliot, who came to New York from a similar multi-team journey a few years ago. Pirri, a fellow unafraid to shoot who has averaged 1.31 goals per 60 minutes since the 2013-14 season, had two shots in the first and was denied by a pad save by J-F Berube in a scramble in front early in the second. “He’s going to have a chance to prove himself,” Vigneault said the other day. “I’ve told him, ‘you only get so many kicks at the can.’ ”
Notes & quotes: Dylan McIlrath scored the fourth goal on a slap shot in the third and Dan Girardi with a long shorthanded empty-netter . . . C Josh Jooris (groin) left the ice in first period and didn’t return…In the first cuts of camp, thirteen players were reassigned or released. Fifty players are left.