On MSG tonight, the Rangers renew acquaintances with the rival Flyers in the City of Brotherly Love. It’s the first of two meetings with the Flyers also visiting MSG later this week.
Of course, it is preseason. So, both rosters will feature some players still battling for spots. Though the Rangers will make a slew of cuts following their fifth exhibition against the Islanders tomorrow. They still are carrying 47 players. Many who won’t be part of the 23-man roster in 10 days when the Islanders visit The Garden for Opening Night.
Henrik Lundqvist makes his first appearance of preseason following playing for Sweden at the World Cup where they were eliminated by Europe and Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello isn’t expected to dress until possibly Thursday. Lundqvist will get half of tonight’s game before giving way to Mackenzie Skapski, who has looked good so far.
Derek Stepan also will play centering Jimmy Vesey and Rick Nash on the top line. Pavel Buchnevich gets a chance on the second unit with Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri, who Alain Vigneault singled out as being more of a top nine possibility than a fourth liner. It makes sense based on Pirri’s offensive skill. He’s scored three goals and two assists thus far doing damage on the power play.
A fourth line of Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe and Jesper Fast could be a good option assuming Gerbe makes the cut. It looks like Grabner definitely has a spot due to his strong penalty killing and dangerous speed.
As for the defense, Vigneault praised Marc Staal, who he feels has come in more focused injury free. He also said Brady Skjei was a little better Saturday but still has some things to work on. What if they decide to send him down at the start? Something I’m against. Adam Clendening has impressed with his unselfish passing on the power play. Dylan McIlrath has to stay. He has the size and strength the team lacks. Nick Holden is also part of the equation.
Here are the Ranger lines:
As for the Flyers, there’ll be some familiar faces. Claude Giroux will center the first line flanked by 19-year old prospect Travis Konecny and Brayden Schenn. Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and 24-year old Russian import Roman Lyubimov will also be in the lineup.
Michael Del Zotto will pair up with annoyance Radko Gudas. Shayne “Ghost” Gostisbehere forms the top pair with 19-year old prospect Ivan Provorov. Andrew MacDonald and Sam Morin also are on the blue line.
1 A Steve Mason and 1 B Michael Neuvirth are the goalies. Considering how well Neuvirth played in last year’s first round after replacing Mason and pushing the Capitals six games, I wonder if he’ll be the top guy. I’m sure coach Dave Hakstol will go with the hot hand during the season.
We’ll have a review later between the Monday Night Football game which hopefully won’t see the Giants get crushed by the Vikings. Hey. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.