Rangers preseason continues with game against the Devils; Vesey to start

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a win in the first preseason contest against the Islanders, the Rangers host the Devils tonight at Madison Square Garden as the team continues to look at players fighting for roster spot and their roles in the regular season.

The Rangers announced the lines and defensive pairings the other day, and the top line is the most intriguing. Jimmy Vesey will make his first appearance with the team on the left wing. Kevin Hayes will center that line, and Rick Nash will play on the right.

Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash

Nathan Gerbe-Brandon Pirri-Pavel Buchnevich

Michael Grabner-Marek Hrivik-Jesper Fast

Adam Tambellini-Maxim Lapierre-Nicklas Jensen

Nick Holden-Kevin Klein

Ryan Graves-Chris Summers

John Gilmour-Dylan McIlrath

Antti Raanta

Mackenzie Skapski

Last season, as well as in his 42 goal 2014-15 campaign, Rick Nash played on the left wing, which is his natural position. However, he does have experience playing on the right wing with the Rangers so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Pairing Nash with Hayes and Vesey has other benefits as well. Hayes and Vesey seemed to be slated for the third line, where they could receive sheltered offensive minutes and zone starts and have some pressure taken off of them defensively. While that should still be the case to a certain extent, Nash’s defensive prowess means that they can remain on the ice for opportunities while he takes some responsibility off of their shoulders.

I know many people make the argument that for Nash, he can’t be paid $7.8 million to be a penalty killer and a three zone player. And I agree, but that’s a huge part of his game and what makes him very valuable to the team. It’s rare to have someone who has the potential to score like he does while also being one of the better defensive forwards in the league.

Vesey and Hayes are also both very creative players, especially with Hayes at center. This line has a good amount of speed, a lot of size and seemingly a lot of potential to score. Plus with the defensive security of Nash on the line plus his guidance for the two young players, this trio could work.

Pirri is at center this game, and he could potentially play there is Jooris is out for a while with Oscar Lindberg. Pirri’s skillset ideally would be in the top nine, but a need for center may force him to play that position in the bottom six. Buchnevich gets a second straight game and will look to impress again with puck movement and on the power play.

Outside of the first line and Pavel Buchnevich, everyone in this game is fighting for a bottom six roster spot. Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner both could factor into a fourth line role, while Jesper Fast is looking to hold onto his spot from last season. Marek Hrivik, playing center tonight, could also fight for a temporary fourth line spot in the absence of Josh Jooris. Nobody on the fourth line really factors to be on the roster come opening night.

On defense, Nick Holden will make his preseason debut. Holden was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for a fourth round pick in 2017 and is also fighting for a potential sixth/seventh defenseman spot. That battle is a lot more intriguing now after Adam Clendening’s excellent outing against the Islanders, as well as Dylan McIlrath’s solid performance.

Interestingly, McIlrath is getting a second straight start and he’s directly competing with Clendening. McIlrath scored a goal in the first game and has made strides in his skating and puck movement since the beginning of last season.

Antti Raanta will likely get the start while Skapski will probably come in towards the end of the game.

You can watch tonight’s game on MSG.

Posted on September 29, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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