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Rookie defenseman Joey Keane survives first round of Rangers cuts

Nineteen-year-old who knocked the wind out of Mika Zibanejad impressing coaching staff

Joey Keane during Rangers training camp on Sept.

Joey Keane during Rangers training camp on Sept. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Richard Harbus/Richard Harbus

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Rangers made their first cuts of the preseason Tuesday, and one player who isn’t expecting to make the team for opening night made it past the first round of roster reductions and will be in the lineup Wednesday when the Blueshirts play their first home game of the preseason against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

Nineteen-year-old defenseman Joey Keane, one of the Rangers’ two third round picks in this summer’s NHL draft, has impressed the coaching staff through four practices to have earned the right to stick around for a little while longer.

“He’s got great feet; he competes, and he’s got a lot of physical skills,’’ coach David Quinn said of Keane. “I love the fact that he’s willing to learn. We think he’s a great prospect. He’s got an awful lot of ability. I think as he gets older, he’s going to adapt, and his game will grow. We really like a lot of things we see about him from a physical standpoint.’’

Keane was the player battling with No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad in the one-on-one drills Sunday when Zibanejad got the wind knocked out of him and had to leave practice early. Zibanejad turned out to be OK, but for a little while there, Keane was worried.

“When I saw him go down, I was really scared,’’ Keane said Tuesday, with a nervous laugh. “But then when we got off the ice, I was talking to him. It was just — we were battling, and it was a freak accident.’’

In the next day’s scrimmage, Zibanejad went to the front of net and Keane was there, playing on the other team and protecting the slot. That was a little awkward, but it didn’t stop him from playing physical hockey. On the next shift, the 6-0, 185-pound Keane took another player, Dawson Leedahl, heavily into the boards.

Keane, a Chicago native, isn’t dreaming of beating the odds and making the club out of camp, right now. Instead, he is using this as a learning experience that will help him when he inevitably returns to his junior team, the Barrie Colts of the OHL.

“I’m just going to go back to my team in Barrie and play as hard as I can and hopefully try to win as many games as we can,’’ he said. “And, yeah, maybe come back next year and try and crack the lineup.’’

Notes & quotes: Gs Brandon Halverson and Chris Nell, Ds Sean Day and Vince Pedrie, and Fs Dawson Leedahl and Ty Ronning were sent to AHL Hartford, and D Nico Gross, a fourth round pick in the draft, was returned to his junior team, Oshawa of the OHL. G Jeremy Brodeur, the son of Devils exec Martin Brodeur, was released from his professional tryout. The roster now stands at 45 players, including forward Boo Nieves, who coach David Quinn said is in concussion protocol after taking a hard hit from Devils defenseman Eric Gryba in Monday’s preseason game. Asked if there should have been a response by his players to the hit, Quinn said, “I like the fact that we responded by winning the game, but obviously there are other ways that you could respond.’’… Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal Wednesday and play half the game. Dustin Tokarski will play the second half.

New York Sports