Tonight, fans get their first look up close at the rebuild. The Rangers return home for the first time since the end of March to host the Flyers in preseason. While expectations are much higher for the guys from Philly, the new batch of Blueshirts will continue to make a first impression on no nonsense coach David Quinn.
Things indeed will be different here. Quinn was none too pleased that no one responded to Devil defenseman Eric Gryba’s tough hit that concussed Boo Nieves the other night. He caught Nieves leaning and contacted the chin and head, knocking him to the ice where he stayed down a while before getting up. Following concussion protocol, it was determined the second-year center had a concussion. Here is the hit in question:
Quinn said he would leave it up to the league to decide. It’s a tough hit by a physical player the Devils signed over the summer. I don’t take issue with it. It’s just one of those plays that happens in hockey. Nieves was skating into the New Jersey zone with the puck and prone. I don’t see any malicious intent from Gryba. Nieves remains day-to-day in concussion protocol, which means he can’t practice. Unfortunately for him, that won’t help his chances of making the roster. Steven Fogarty had a solid game on Monday while playing a checking role that included some penalty kill. He’s a forgotten player who is a long shot. But hard work certainly can’t hurt.
There won’t be many repeat players in Wednesday’s lineup. Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider will sit as will impressive 2017 seventh overall pick Lias Andersson, who scored twice in the 4-3 overtime win. Pavel Buchnevich will dress again. He was excellent in Newark, scoring a power play goal off a Hayes faceoff win, while setting up second-year defenseman Neal Pionk’s winner. He’ll likely play with 2017 first round pick Filip Chytil, who makes his debut in his second training camp. Quinn had high praise for the gifted Czech center, who posseses a lot of skill which makes him a young player to keep an eye on. There should be palpable excitement to see Chytil.
Brett Howden and Libor Hajek will also get a chance to show what they can do. Each came over from Tampa in the blockbuster trade involving Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, which also netted Vladislav Namestnikov. A versatile forward, who must prove himself worthy of the multi-year deal GM Jeff Gorton gave him. Ryan Spooner will also be in. He was better than Namestnikov after coming over from Boston in the Rick Nash deal. Nash remains unsigned. He might take the year off before deciding if he’ll return. Retirement is possible.
Henrik Lundqvist will get his first taste of preseason action. Dustin Tokarski will replace him halfway through. A late signing to compete for the backup job with Alexandar Georgiev and Marek Mazanec, Tokarski is best remembered for replacing an injured Carey Price in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final for the Canadiens. He played well, but the Habs lost to Lundqvist and the Blueshirts in six. It’s been tough for him since.
Here is the rest of the projected lineup:
Joey Keane is someone to watch. A American prospect who represented Team USA at the World Junior Evaluation Camp, I’m curious to see how he looks. Curiosity is what these games are all about. It’s a chance for coaches and us to gauge where some of these guys are in their development.
I’ll have a full report later. We’re actually about to leave for The Garden now. It should be strange to be back. But here we are.