KANATA, Ontario – Forwards Greg McKegg and Micheal Haley were scratches again and Brendan Smith, a defenseman by trade, was once again in the lineup as a fourth-line forward Saturday night against the Senators in Ottawa. Smith, though, once again played defense in shorthanded situations, and Quinn said he intends to keep that going for a while.
“I think he had a really good (training) camp, and he had a great stretch last year when he played forward and no problem playing it for an extended period of time,’’ Quinn said of Smith, who scored an empty net goal in the season opener Thursday against Winnipeg, when he was on the ice as a defenseman in a six-on-four situation.
Smith, a lefthanded shot, played right wing Saturday, with center Lias Andersson and left wing Brendan Lemieux. On the penalty kill, he was usually on the right side with Marc Staal. On his last penalty kill shift of the second period, he got a blocked shot and an assist on the same play, when he blocked a shot with his shin pad and the puck ricocheted away to send Mika Zibanejad away on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break with Lias Andersson. Zibanejad scored to complete a hat trick, with Smith getting the assist, as the Rangers took a 3-1 lead.
On the home front
Brett Howden, who scored the winning goal in Thursday’s game, said he got several texts from his family and friends after that game. Howden grew up in Winnipeg.
“People were texting me, saying, ‘We’re happy for you, but did you have to score against the Jets?' ’’ Howden said with a grin.
Howden did not grow up a Jets fan, though. The team didn’t move to Winnipeg (from Atlanta) until he was 15, so his favorite team is the Calgary Flames, he said. (Ironically, the Flames also moved from Atlanta).
The Rangers opened the season with a home win Thursday over Winnipeg, were on the road to open Ottawa's season on Saturday night, and then have a week off before returning to the Garden for their next game Saturday when they host Edmonton. Hard to envision what the league's schedule makers must be thinking.