Neal Pionk is officially listed by the Rangers as 6-feet tall and weighing 186 pounds. He shoots righthanded, plays defense, and is best known for his work in the offensive end of the ice.
Tony DeAngelo is listed as 5-11, 180. He also shoots righthanded, plays defense, and is best known for his work in the offensive end of the ice.
Both are American, both were born in 1995, and both have dark hair. But Rangers coach David Quinn insists that, despite their similarities, the two are not to be confused for one another.
“No, they’re not the same player,’’ Quinn said Monday before the Rangers' second 4-3 overtime victory over the Devils this preseason, this one at Madison Square Garden. “I think Neal’s game has always been a little more of a guy who’s got offensive ability, but he’s got an edge, defensively. He’s always been a strong, one-on-one player; where I think Tony’s game has always been one with an offensive flair to it, where he also defends.’’
Both players started last season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford and were called up late in the season after injuries and a roster purge left the club thin on the blue line. Both were in the lineup Monday looking to cement their spots on the 23-man roster for Opening Night. Pionk had two assists in the game, and DeAngelo had one.
DeAngelo, a native of Sewell Township in Southern New Jersey who will turn 23 on Oct. 24, said he is confident that if he plays as well as he knows he can, he’ll make the team.
“Yeah. I think so,’’ he said. “That’s all up to the management and coaching staff, too, but as long as you go out there, you try your hardest and feel like you did what you can do, that’s all you really can do.’’
Pionk, 23, from Hermantown, Minnesota, was undrafted, but signed a two-year, $3.55-million contract with the Rangers in 2017 as a free agent after a two-year career at Minnesota-Duluth. He played so well at the end of the season for the Rangers (one goal, 13 assists in 28 games, most on the top defensive pairing) that he made the U.S. team for the World Championships.
And while that doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the Rangers’ roster, he also feels pretty good about his chances.
“Well, I won’t make any predictions, but if I can do what I can do ... I’ll let it play its course,’’ Pionk said. “I’ve got to put my best foot forward and let the chips fall as they do.’’
Notes & quotes: Vinni Lettieri tipped in a pass from Kevin Hayes with 1:07 left in overtime to give the Rangers the victory. Steven Fogarty, Tim Gettinger and Chris Kreider had the other Ranger goals. Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall scored for the Devils ... Ranger forwards Matt Beleskey and Jesper Fast left the game with injuries. Beleskey hurt his shoulder, possibly in a fight with Eric Gryba, in the first period. Fast did not play in the third, the Rangers said, for "precautionary reasons.'' He should be fine, Quinn said ... Henrik Lundqvist played the first two periods and allowed one goal on 14 shots. Marek Mazanec relieved him and got his second OT win over New Jersey in the preseason.