Rangers Practice Report: Klein OUT for opener, Vesey and Buchnevich in top six

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After being held out of practice for the last few days, Kevin Klein will miss the season opener tomorrow against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden after an MRI revealed a back strain.

Klein had been experiencing back spasms but fortunately this injury is not too serious. Alain VIgneaut said it’s “day-to-day” and that “he’ll be back soon.”

Klein has scored nine goals and 17 assists in each of the last two seasons while providing a steady defensive presence and surprisingly improving his possession and passing each year.

In the absence of Klein, Nick Holden will be paired with Marc Staal on the team’s second pairing. Holden has put up decent offensive numbers over the past few years, scoring 22 points (6-16-22) last season. He can play both the right and left side and is a “steady and dependable defenseman” according to Vigneault.

These are how the defensive pairings will look for tomorrow;

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Adam Clendening

These pairings should not invoke confidence in any Rangers fan. The largely disastrous pairing of McDonagh and Girardi is back together, where Girardi will inevitably drag McDonagh down and force him to do more than he has to. Staal has looked better this preseason, but the jury is still out on him. Same with Holden since he hasn’t shown much in preseason.

The third pairing has a total of 62 games of NHL experience between the two players, which means that AV will probably shelter them and give tons of minutes to the McDonagh and Girardi pairing. Which didn’t work out too well last season.

There’s a lot of reasons to worry about the defense; no true puck movers on either side, aging veterans and a heavy burden on inexperienced players. We’ll see how this group looks tomorrow.

The top three lines for the game were also announced, with only the fourth line yet to be named. Here’s what we have so far;

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

JT Miller-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash

This was a bit of a surprise because I fully expected Vesey to play with Hayes. However, I’m really happy with what AV has announced so far. It looks like he’s trying to spread out the rookies and put some veteran and defensive presence on each line to take the burden off of the younger players.

The placement of Rick Nash on the so-called “third line” makes me think that outside of the fourth line, Vigneault isn’t employing a traditional four line team. There’s three scoring lines that each have at least one of the Rangers best players on it.

Kevin Hayes didn’t have as much production last year, partially due to a decrease in the quality of his linemates, but he’s been given a lot of talent on his line this year. Rick Nash is the best forward on the team when fully healthy, and JT Miller broke the 20 goal plateau last year. Hayes will be given every chance to succeed and I think he’ll have a big year, as will Nash.

The Rangers open up their season tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.

Posted on October 12, 2016, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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