GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Ten games into the season, and with the Rangers’ second-longest homestand now behind them, coach David Quinn believes he’s getting a handle on his team.
“I think obviously we’re trying to find some consistency, and what it’s going to take for us to have success,’’ Quinn said Thursday as the team returned to practice after a day off. “And I thought maybe those first two games [wins over Winnipeg and Ottawa to start the season] really deceived us.
“Maybe we convinced ourselves we were going to be somebody that we really can’t be. And, you know, I think throughout this homestand, we got a little bit of an eye-opener on what it’s going to take for us to be successful.’’
Quinn inserted 20-year-old Filip Chytil and 21-year-old Ryan Lindgren into Tuesday’s lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, giving the Rangers seven players in the lineup aged 21 or younger. The entire team played with great energy, and three youngsters — Chytil, 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko and 21-year-old Adam Fox — scored in the 4-1 victory.
Quinn expressed optimism that the Rangers can compete with the youngest active roster (average age 25.8 years) in the league, though he wasn’t willing to declare his defense corps, which featured three 21-year-old rookies in Lindgren, Fox and Libor Hajek on Tuesday, a complete success just yet.
“It hasn’t worked yet,’’ Quinn said. “It did work the other night. These guys are gonna have peaks and valleys, like most 21-year-olds do. [But] one of the things that we like about these guys is they play with passion and they compete. There’s an excitement to their game, and they don’t let mistakes bother them.’’
Two of the rookies, Fox and Lindgren, who was called up from Hartford on Monday and who bumped alternate captain Marc Staal out of the lineup, played together on the third pair. The two are close friends, having played together with the U.S. National Team Development Program. They remained close when Fox went to college at Harvard and Lindgren went to the University of Minnesota.
Lindgren earned the first assist of his career on Fox’s first NHL goal.
“I’m very familiar with his game,’’ Lindgren said. “He’s obviously an outstanding hockey player and very easy to play with. I think [our familiarity with each other] made it easier. I knew what kind of player he was, and yeah, I thought we’d do well together.’’
Lindgren, a native of Burnsville, Minnesota, who grew up with Rangers teammate Brady Skjei, called it “pretty crazy’’ that the Rangers are playing three 21-year-old rookie defensemen.
“It says a lot about the organization that they trust us,’’ Lindgren said. “Obviously, there’s gonna be mistakes by us, but we just try to learn every day. And, yeah, I mean it’s pretty cool.’’
Notes & quotes: C Mika Zibanejad (upper-body injury) missed practice again, but Quinn said he is getting better and that there’s a chance he can play Saturday afternoon when the Rangers visit Nashville . . . On Halloween at practice, players wore orange or black jerseys with orange numbers. Alternate captains had a candy corn on the jersey where the “A’’ usually would be.