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49° Good Afternoon

Rangers might stick with 23-man roster before Thursday’s opener

Rangers' head coach Alain Vigneault discusses the start

Rangers' head coach Alain Vigneault discusses the start of training camp on Sept. 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

It appears that the 23-man Rangers roster will stick for Thursday’s start of the regular season. That number doesn’t include Oscar Lindberg, who is on injured reserve but improving.

“I’m thinking that we might, for a short amount of time until we sort things out and we see different players in NHL competition, we might keep 23, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday after practice at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. “We’re definitely under the cap, but any money that you spend on players not playing, that you can use later on . . . well, we’re looking at the big picture.”

Tanner Glass and Nathan Gerbe cleared waivers Saturday and were scheduled to report to AHL Hartford.

“We felt that at this time there were some wingers ahead of both those guys,” Vigneault said. “Tanner brings us an element of toughness and Gerbe brings us an element of skill, but we felt for now, this was the right thing to do.”

Building team chemistry

Saturday’s invitation-only practice at Skyrink near West 22nd Street in Manhattan, with a capacity of about 500, was watched by members of youth groups and charitable organizations. Afterward, the team boarded a bus for a visit to the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as part of two days of team-building activities.

With Rick Nash and Jesper Fast at the rink but not skating for “maintenance” days, there was nothing definitive to note about potential forward lines. Vigneault said both players will practice Monday after Sunday’s off-day.

However, the defense pairs were: Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi; Maac Staal-Kevin Klein; Brady Skjei-Dylan McIlrath; Nick Holden-Adam Clendening.

Jooris gets extra look

Vigneault said that coaches had not seen enough to properly evaluate center Josh Jooris, who played just 1:14 in the first preseason game because of a groin injury, then didn’t play again until Thursday’s final preseason game against the Flyers. “We’ve decided to keep him a couple extra days here and see how things unfold,” Vigneault said.

Lindberg, recovering from offseason hip surgery and expected back in November, is “slightly ahead” of schedule, Vigneault said. Lindberg wore a red non-contact jersey, but “he did all the drills today; he’s getting close to getting the green light [for full practice].”

Rangers visit NYPD

On Friday, the Rangers were literally locked and loaded.

They spent what Chris Kreider termed a worthwhile, but “long day” at the New York Police Department’s training facilities, which include a firing range, mock streetscapes and meetings with officers and specialists.

“For the training we did, the simulation we did, the talks that we got from some of the people at the NYPD, I thought it was outstanding,” said Vigneault. “Our guys were into it. We talked about tactical, we talked about planning, we talked about trusting your training . . . the drills and the competition that they put our guys through was phenomenal.”

“First time I’ve ever fired a gun,” said Jimmy Vesey. “Didn’t do so well the first time [at target practice], was better the second time.”

It was a little different for goaltender Antti Raanta, who spent six months training in the Finnish army when he turned 18, so had handled weapons and been in military exercises. “These guns were bigger,” he said Saturday.

Marc Staal, along with Dan Girardi, had experienced training and maneuvers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2007 when the Rangers visited, carrying stretchers through a creek at night. “Almost drowned,” Staal said. “Our group was carrying [Jaromir] Jagr, think he was 280 pounds,” Girardi recalled.

Kevin Hayes displayed a small round bruise on his right bicep from one of the Friday competitions, but players said the activities were worthwhile. “Especially with all the new guys, like Vesey, Booch [Pavel Buchnevich], you get to know each other more,” said Staal.

After all the testing and competing for jobs on-ice at camp that this group survived, team-building allows players to relax a little. “We’re able to communicate like human beings, not lab rats,” Kreider said with a smile.


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