GREENBURGH, N.Y. – At his introductory news conference in June, new Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said the hard work would start in training camp for the Blueshirts as the coach seeks to install his system and instill the right attitude in his players.
And with the Rangers having their first preseason game on Sunday after veterans reported for camp Wednesday, Laviolette made it clear that everyone had better be ready to go. Immediately.
“I guess the one message coming from me to the players is, ‘Every day, come in and try to show your greatness,’ ’’ Laviolette told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “Because at the end of the day, inside of a team sport, we need players to be great.’’
That was the message Laviolette conveyed to the 58 players in camp when he met with the team for the first time Wednesday morning. They will get on the ice on Thursday.
There are a number of questions Laviolette will have to address during camp, and in his address to reporters Wednesday, he touched on a few of them:
Alexis Lafrenière will start camp at right wing. “That’s not to say that he might not move back to the left,’’ Laviolette said. “But yes … he will be on the right side to start camp.’’
The lines he starts with on Day 1 will change on Day 2, he said. He said he may keep some familiar combinations together – center Mika Zibanejad and left wing Chris Kreider, for instance, or defense partners Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren – but he’s not averse to trying new things. “I know that there's been success there,’’ the coach said. "That doesn't mean that you can't try something different as well, and see how that looks.’’
There will have to be a balance struck between allowing players to do what has always made them successful, while also getting them to play the gritty, forechecking style the coach wants from them. But if, for instance, if a player has always played a perimeter game, and Laviolette wants the player to forecheck, then, the coach said, “That guy will forecheck.’’
Though the roster looks pretty well set, with little room for any young guys to break in, general manager Chris Drury said last week that the team would always be able to make room if someone forced his way onto the team.
“That's why we have general training camp and a tryout and, things evolve over the next three weeks,’’ Drury said. “I'm not really set on anything. I'm hoping there's some good surprises like that.’’
Laviolette echoed that Wednesday, when asked what his message was to the young prospects, such as forwards Brennan Othmann and Will Cuylle, who might challenge for a roster spot.
“The message is, my eyes are wide open, the (coaching) staff's eyes are wide open,’’ Laviolette said. “Come in here and take what you want. Push for what you want and I'm sure we won't miss it.’’
Finally, when asked if there is a specific number of games he’d like No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin to play, he said there is, but the number could change.
“It seems like there's always a set number when you go into it, and that never happens,’’ he said.