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Rangers continue to trim roster for Oct. 13 opener

Rangers defenseman Zac Jones during Rangers practice on

Rangers defenseman Zac Jones during Rangers practice on Sept. 23. Credit: Noah K. Murray

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The Rangers stayed in New England after their preseason game in Boston on Saturday night and have had time to enjoy some team bonding activities during the last few days. There was some golf, some watching NFL games together, and some general activities in which guys had a chance to get to know each other a little better.

But there still is work to do to finalize the roster for opening night on Oct. 13. It was trimmed again Monday when forward Greg McKegg cleared waivers and was assigned to AHL Hartford, but there still are a couple of decisions to make.

Nine defensemen remain in camp, and the top five — Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller and Patrik Nemeth — are obvious to everyone. That leaves four players — Jarred Tinordi, Libor Hajek and rookies Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist — battling for the sixth and seventh spots.

Tinordi, 29, is a rugged 6-6, 232-pound veteran with 102 NHL games for three different teams on his resume. The 6-3, 206-pound Hajek, 23, played 44 games for the Rangers last season and has been described by coach Gerard Gallant as "solid.’’

Lundkvist, 21, and Jones, 20, are different from them and similar to each other.

The 5-10, 175-pound Jones, a third-round pick in 2019, is a lefthanded shot; the 5-11, 187-pound Lundkvist, the third of three first-rounders in 2018, is a righty. Gallant said lefthanded vs. righthanded doesn’t matter in the competition because Nemeth, 29, can play either the left or right side. He would play on the left if he partners with Lundkvist and on the right if he partners with Jones.

According to Gallant, there has been no separation between Lundkvist and Jones.

"They’re close,’’ he said. "They’re both good young players. They both had good camps.

"Whoever earns it . . . it’s going to be a tough decision. And even whoever doesn’t make it’s still going to be a part of our future. There’s no doubt about that.’’

Lundkvist won the Borje Salming Award last season as the top defenseman in the Swedish Hockey League. Jones led his college team, UMass, to a national championship last season and then played 10 games at the end of the season with the Rangers.

In the preseason, Lundkvist has three assists in three games; Jones has one assist in two games.

Lundkvist probably was the favorite to win the last spot on defense entering camp, but Jones has played well, and he said the 10 games he played for the Rangers last season have helped him be more comfortable and confident.

"I’m going to make it as hard as I can on the coaching staff to send me down,’’ he said. "I feel like I’ve played well enough to deserve to be here, and I’m going to keep playing the way I can play, and whatever happens happens.’’

Notes & quotes: With McKegg going down, the Rangers have 26 players remaining in camp. They will practice again Tuesday in Rhode Island before returning home for Wednesday’s preseason game at Madison Square Garden against the Devils . . . Vitali Kravtsov, who left Friday’s game against the Devils with a lower-body injury, did not make the trip to New England.

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