ST. LOUIS - There was Mats Zuccarello, helmet off, gloves off, hair flying, scrapping with the much bigger T.J. Oshie behind Henrik Lundqvist.
It happened at 5:07 of the third period Thursday night, and it was significant because it was the first fight of the diminutive but feisty Norwegian's pro career.
"I tried to get a little bit of a spark; he slashed me," said the 5-7, 179-pound Zuccarello, who took a pounding from the 5-11, 189-pound Oshie but emerged uncut. "There's always a first for everything. It's good to get it out of the way. Situations happen. Some games it's like this, playing a tough team away, but I'm not going to make a living by fighting."
Lundqvist, who turned around to watch from the crease, didn't realize at first that it was Zuccarello. "I was shocked," he said, "but at the same time, it was impressive. You could tell already in the preseason he's been playing with more of an edge. It's good for the team."
Dominic Moore won 12 of 16 faceoffs but the Rangers won only 45 percent overall. "It's an area where we're going to have to improve,'' coach Alain Vigneault said. "[Derick Brassard] and Dom were all right, Marty [St. Louis] is going to get better and J.T. [Miller, who was 0-for-8] was just off tonight." . . . With defenseman Dan Boyle out with a broken hand, the Rangers will need to adjust their defense. Kevin Klein might have to move from the third to second pair and Matt Hunwick could get his first start as a Ranger Saturday . . . Fourth-line winger Jesper Fast, who injured his left wrist blocking a shot but kept playing, might not be able to dress Saturday. Either veteran Ryan Malone or rookie Kevin Hayes could make his Rangers debut . . . Ryan McDonagh wore the "C'' for the first time. St. Louis and Marc Staal wore "A'' as alternate captains. Dan Girardi will be an alternate captain at home games . . . Vigneault said Kevin Hayes (shoulder injury) "will be medically cleared [Thursday] or [Friday]. He had a real good camp; I like a lot of things he brings to the table. If we have some decisions to make, he can come off IR at any time."
Duke was ready
The Duke was as prepared as possible for his NHL debut.
Before 19-year-old Anthony Duclair hit the ice at Scottrade Center for his first NHL regular-season game, he expected to be tested.
"I don't get nervous, I get excited. Like my first [preseason] game in Chicago, I was so excited to get out there," said Duclair, who scored 50 goals in juniors for the Quebec Remparts last season and who had a surprisingly productive training camp. "I think it's going to be the same jitterbugs tonight."
The pace of the game, Duclair predicted, was "going to be a notch higher. I'm not playing against junior guys, not playing against guys who played in the American Hockey League. It's men who've been in the league a while now, and obviously, it's going to be a tough challenge."
Duclair, who started on a line with Miller and Lee Stempniak and had 11:12 of ice time, has been asking a lot of questions on positioning, and that continued Wednesday before the Rangers flew here. Vigneault dismissed the possibility that Duclair wasn't ready, saying: "Players that are playing tonight deserved to start the season with us."