PHILADELPHIA — Most NHL players aren’t interested in overtimes or shootouts in preseason games. Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh has a different take, even though he’s been training and playing since July, from Minnesota to Toronto.
“I don’t know. You get good practice for the three-on-three. Haven’t seen it in a while,” McDonagh said before the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers on Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.
That’s classic McDonagh, who is entering his third season as Rangers captain: Work hard and let your play do the talking.
McDonagh was one of four World Cup representatives in the Rangers’ lineup as coach Alain Vigneault attempted to give those players time to adjust to teammates. Vigneault also was evaluating AHL players, free agents and tryouts before the next round of cuts after Tuesday night’s game in Brooklyn.
McDonagh, 27, led Team USA with two goals in the Americans’ three games, but the defenseman was a minus-2. Although the U.S. elimination was quick — in three straight games — he said that “personally I was strong on the ice, felt I was skating well, felt quick and good with the puck. So from that aspect, it gives me some confidence in joining the team again.”
Without Keith Yandle, the defenseman who posted 42 assists before signing a free-agent contract with Florida, the Rangers need offensive contributions from McDonagh similar to his 2013-14 season, when he had 14 goals and 43 points in the regular season and four goals and 17 points in 25 playoff games.
In the last two seasons, McDonagh, slowed by shoulder, hand and neck injuries as well as a concussion on a hit from the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds, had only 33 and 34 points.
“You just want to make sure you’re defensively sound and making good plays in your own end,” he said.
For the first time, McDonagh was paired with Adam Clendening, a free-agent signee. “Haven’t practiced with him too much, but just from watching, he’s a real good puck-mover,” McDonagh said. “Has his head up the whole time, makes good outlet passes.”
McDonagh is banking on the fact that the extra training and the challenge of the elite-level competition in the World Cup will help when the puck drops for real on Oct. 13. “Personally, you wanted to see those [World Cup] forwards coming down on you,” he said. “Hopefully, it translates well for the beginning of the season.”
Down 3-1 against the Flyers, the Rangers tied the score in the third period on goals by Brandon Pirri, who netted his fourth of the preseason, and Jimmy Vesey, who had been drilled from behind and sent headfirst into the boards, triggering a game misconduct for Radko Gudas at the end of the first period.
“Thought I had a little more time than that. Didn’t expect that big of a hit,” Vesey said. “Next thing I knew, I was face- first into the glass. I felt fine. Just got my nose square into the boards. I don’t mind that; felt like it woke me up a little bit. Nice to get the first [goal] out of the way. Great pass by Step [Derek Stepan].”
Said Vigneault, “I’ve seen that hit many times before from that player. I’ll just leave it at that.”