Ranger Preseason Opener a Chance to Impress

Took a ride down Monday to the Rangers’ MSG Training Center practice facility, which was abuzz with the excitement of the big club’s first preseason game that night at the Garden against New Jersey.

Monday’s training camp practice was divided into three groups, the second of which was the game group, consisting of the guys who were going to see action in the exhibition opener.

That game lineup included defensemen Dylan McIlrath, Brady Skjei and Chris Summers, forwards Ryan Bourque, Luke Adam, Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna, Viktor Stalberg, Oscar Lindberg and Marek Hrivik, as well as goaltenders Antti Raanta and Magnus Hellberg.

Dylan McIlrath

Dylan McIlrath

All of those guys spent all or part of last season in the AHL (Bourque, Lindberg, McIlrath and Hrivik, of course, with the Wolf Pack) and all are in battles for whatever slots might be available in the season-opening Ranger lineup.

The general feeling among the media seemed to be that McIlrath and Lindberg, as young, relatively inexpensive players who are now subject to waivers if they are assigned to the AHL, are unlikely to end up with the Wolf Pack, and it appears certain that one of Raanta or Hellberg will be the backup in New York to Henrik Lundqvist, but nobody is assuring anybody, whether it is those individuals or anyone else, of anything at this early stage.

One thing is clear, with the Rangers tight up against the NHL salary cap, the organization is acutely aware that the depth that the Wolf Pack provides is likely to be vital to the big club’s success.

Ranger head coach Alain Vigneault referenced that Monday morning, when he said of the preseason opener, “We’ve got a lot of younger players that we want to take a look at, guys that people might say they’re more penciled in to go to Hartford. That’s not necessarily the case, it depends on how they play here, but it is an opportunity for us to get a read on, if we need them down the line, can we trust them in certain situations? And I would say if I’m a player, I’m excited about the opportunity to play a first exhibition game and show coaching and management what I’m capable of doing on the ice.”

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