BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – As he was getting ready for the puck drop in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Islanders at the Isles’ AHL team’s home arena, Rangers coach David Quinn still had some evaluating to do with regard to the final roster the Blueshirts will take into Thursday’s regular season opener against the Winnipeg Jets.
“I would say, there is probably three or four spots that we're still kicking around,’’ Quinn said. "A lot of other teams in the league, probably two weeks ago, or 10 days ago, knew what their lineups were going to look like. And we're not in that situation.’’
Realistically, Quinn probably needs to figure out which two 21-year-old rookies – among Libor Hajek, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren – will make up his third defense pair; who will be his third line right wing –20-year-old Filip Chytil or 19-year-old Vitali Kravtsov – and which 21-year-old (or soon to be 21-year-old) second-year player – Brett Howden or Lias Andersson – will be his third line center. All were in the lineup Saturday night playing against a nearly full-strength Islanders team, with one last chance to make an impression, along with older guys like Greg McKegg and Boo Nieves, and PTO (professional tryout) player Micheal Haley.
The Rangers were scrappy in a 4-2 loss, but Quinn had to love the effort put forth by the guys on the bubble. Andersson, who turns 21 on Oct. 13, had the primary assist on Vlad Namestnikov’s second-period goal, and Lindgren had the other assist. Really, just about everyone played well, and after the game, Quinn said it’s going to make the job of picking the team even harder.
“Yes, for sure,’’ he said. “There was an awful lot of good to take out of tonight. A lot of guys had good nights, good solid nights . . . it was tooth and nail all night long, right down to the end.’’
Andersson, who lost 17 pounds over the summer and seemed to gain a step on the ice, already had two goals in the preseason entering Saturday, and he said he believes he’s done all he could to make the team. “I’m happy with the way I played and the way I battled,’’ he said.
Lindgren, the rugged, 6-foot, 191-pound Minnesotan, did some great work on the penalty kill, and fought the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck in the second period. Fighting isn’t something he thinks he has to do in order to make it to the NHL, he said, “but something I have to do is play hard, play tough, and getting in scrums like that, and some fights now and then is something that comes with it.’’
Hajek and McKegg also had points in the game, both assisting on Tony DeAngelo’s third-period goal.
Kravtsov, who was the extra skater when the Rangers pulled goaltender Alexandar Georgiev in an attempt to get a tying goal, left after colliding with the Islanders’ Casey Cizikas in the final minute. But he seemed fine in the locker room after the game and Quinn said he didn’t think Kravtsov was hurt.
Quinn talked before the game about the pressure the second-year players might be feeling to make the team. But he scoffed when asked how difficult it might be to have to tell someone like Chytil, who played 75 games and scored 11 goals last season as a 19-year-old, that he was going down.
“You’re talking about a 20-year-old, right?’’ he said. “So, if you can’t send a 20-year-old down to play the American Hockey League, why do we have the American Hockey League?’’
Lindgren was asked what his day will be like on Sunday.
“I guess it depends,’’ he said. “I’m hoping it’s an off day and I’m back at Tarrytown Monday for practice.’’