NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a player faces his former team for the first time, there’s generally a little more sense of “I’ll show you” in the blood.
That’s what Rangers coach Alain Vigneault expected to see from Cody McLeod — the veteran tough guy waived by the Predators on Jan. 24 and claimed by the Rangers — when he dressed for his second game as a Blueshirt on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena. He played 12 minutes and had four hits.
“It’s always a special feeling when you play against your former team, so hopefully his emotions are going to be in check a little bit and he’s going to play hard and play smart,” Vigneault said.
In Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, Vigneault said McLeod, who was credited with eight hits, “was physical when the opportunity was there. His line spent some good offensive zone time. I expect him to work hard and go to the net; our expectations are exactly what we saw.”
McLeod was on the fourth line Saturday, with center David Desharnais and Paul Carey. With Pavel Buchnevich back in New York in the concussion protocol, Jimmy Vesey was moved to the first line.
“Consistency has been an issue with his play this year,” Vig neault said of Vesey. “He’s working hard, staying positive. I want to see him up there with Mika [Zibanejad] and [Rick] Nash, and at the same time, the lines give us a little balance.”
Kevin Hayes was between Michael Grabner and Mats Zuccarello as the second trio.
In the second period, after the fracas that developed when Vesey was bloodied, the Rangers almost tied the score at 1.
Peter Holland’s pass on a two-on-one with Grabner was blocked by a sliding P.K. Subban, but he recovered and backhanded the puck past goalie Pekka Rinne.
Preds coach Peter Laviolette challenged the goal, arguing that Grabner was offside as the play began and won.
After a video review, the goal was overturned and the score remained 1-0.
Vigneault, already frustrated by the officials, said after the game that on replay, it appeared to be the right call.
Vigneault wanted the Rangers to be aggressive “against a team with a great deal of offense coming from their back end, so we’ve been watching video and we want to work on their ‘D’, not letting them get involved in their rush attacks as much as possible.” . . . Brady Skjei, who had three goals and 13 assists in the previous 51 games and was a minus-6, “is on a learning curve right now . . . He expected more from himself, and we expected more from him,” Vigneault said. Skjei had five goals and 34 assists in 80 games and was a plus-11 last season. He also scored four goals in 12 playoff games . . . The lone spare was D Steven Kampfer, who has played in only 18 games. His last was in Denver on Jan. 20.