Rangers down to 25 Players

Most years in the recent past, the parent New York Rangers have waited until nearly the start of the NHL season to pare their roster down to regular-season size.

This fall, however, after having sent a total of 13 players to the Wolf Pack Friday and Saturday, the Rangers have their roster is down to 25 players, just two over the regular-season roster limit of 23.

The current Ranger group includes eight defensemen, and New York head coach Alain Vigneault is on record as saying he would like to keep eight, but that salary cap concerns will likely make that unworkable. So barring a trade, at least one blueliner is likely still to come down to the Pack, and the Rangers still have 15 forwards, at least one more than they would probably carry to start the regular year.

The Wolf Pack, meanwhile, have 44 players on their current roster, enough to split into two separate groups for their training camp practices. This is the first time in recent memory that coach Ken Gernander has had virtually his entire team in camp ahead of the preseason, but the Pack head man says that doesn’t change much as far as how he and his staff will approach things.

“The American League a lot of times is all about adapting to different things,” Gernander said after Monday’s practice. “It’ll be nice for us in that I think the guys that were in New York showed themselves well, so I like the talent that we have coming back (from the Rangers), and they all seem like character guys, I think they’ll get to know each other a little bit better in the intimate setting here at the XL Center. So there should be a lot of positives to the situation.”

The big challenge that the Pack braintrust faces, with so many players in camp, is parsing out action in the team’s three preseason games between the individuals who are certain to be regulars with the team and those who are relatively unknown and are looking to make an impression.

Magnus Hellberg (Elsa/Getty Images)

Magnus Hellberg (Elsa/Getty Images)

“That is the balancing act,” Gernander said. “We want to make sure that, first and foremost, the guys that are going to be on our team to start the season get the proper amount of work so that they’re ready for the season opener. We certainly have to give some looks and some consideration to guys that are battling for those last few roster spots, and as evidenced by last year, we’re going to need some depth and some callups, so have to get a good peek at all of them. Hopefully a good week of practice can be a bit of an indicator for us, and then we’re going to have to spread the games out as best we can.”

The Pack start the preseason Thursday night, traveling to the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport to battle the Sound Tigers, then play Saturday night at Lehigh Valley and host the Sound Tigers Sunday afternoon at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell.

One of the players assigned to the Wolf Pack in the last round of cuts is goaltender Magnus Hellberg, so it looks as though Antti Raanta has won the battle to be Henrik Lundqvist’s backup in New York. Hellberg is one of no fewer than six netminders on the Hartford roster, although two of those, Cedrick Desjardins and Mackenzie Skapski, are injured. Former Yale Eli Jeff Malcolm is back for his third year in the organization and has the inside track to start the season on the Wolf Pack roster alongside Hellberg, and Trumbull, CT native Alex Vazzano, who played the last two years at Sacred Heart, and Josh Robinson, who split last season between Austria and the ECHL, are the other two in camp, both tryout players.

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