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Rangers' last preseason game will determine roster decisions

Brett Howden of the Rangers carries the puck

Brett Howden of the Rangers carries the puck against the Islanders during the third period of a preseason game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers’ preseason schedule comes to an end on Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn., where they face the Islanders in the home arena of the Isles’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

And for some players who are on the bubble to make the final roster, their NHL future could come down to how they perform in this last game, coach David Quinn said in his Friday media briefing.

“Yes, based on our situation and where guys are,’’ Quinn said. “There are some very difficult decisions we have to make, and you've got to finish training camp. Someone might do something (Saturday) that keeps him in; someone might do something that keeps him out. That's how tight it is at certain positions.’’

There are several pressing questions for the Rangers’ braintrust regarding the roster, the first being whether they can realistically keep all the young prospects who are still in camp.

Setting aside 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 pick in the draft who appears locked into a spot on the second line, Brett Howden, 21, Lias Andersson, who turns 21 on Oct. 13, Filip Chytil, 20, and 2018 first round pick Vitali Kravtsov, 19, are all battling to make the roster.

With the Rangers playing only three games in the first nine days of the season, they may only keep 12, or perhaps 13 forwards. If so, then, barring a trade or some shock move with a veteran forward, Howden, Andersson, Chytil, Kravtsov, Boo Nieves, 25, and Greg McKegg, 27, are competing for, at most, four spots.

It seems far-fetched that all of the youngsters will make the team. If they do, the Rangers would have five forwards under the age of 22 on the opening night roster. On Friday, though, Quinn insisted that it’s possible all the kids could make it.

“If they deserve to be here, based on our roster, then they'll be here,’’ he said.

Chytil, who got the first crack at the No. 2 center spot, played on the wing in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers, and practiced on the wing Friday, skating on the right of a line with Howden in the middle and Kravtsov on the left.

Andersson, who scored the only regulation goal for the Rangers Thursday, practiced at center between veterans Vlad Namestnikov and Jesper Fast on Friday.

Chytil’s case is the most interesting. He played 75 games for the Rangers last season as a 19-year-old, and scored 11 goals and 12 assists. But if the Rangers want him playing center, and don’t believe he can do that in the NHL right now, they could send him down rather than have him stay and play wing. That would be difficult to do to a kid who spent all of last season in New York.

Forward Steven Fogarty cleared waivers and was assigned to AHL Hartford, leaving the Rangers with 31 players in camp.

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