New York Rangers Vs. New Jersey: What To Watch For
Brad Penner, USATSI

The window of opportunity is closing for the New York Rangers hopefuls. With only four games remaining, every shift will count. 

  • New York Rangers
  • New Jersey Devils
  • NHL, Today, 7:00 PM on MSG
  • Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Today’s preseason game with bring another opportunity for players who are hoping to make a strong impression with the New York Rangers’ coaching staff.

Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils brought about some encouraging performances for some players, and some underwhelming ones for others.

Right off of the bat, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich looked pretty good. Between Thursday night’s game and the Traverse City Tournament, Vesey had made it clear that he is willing to go to the net.

Vesey willingness to goto the dirty areas is a great quality which the Rangers will desperately need this season. Having said that, it is also very clear that both Vesey and Buchnevich have the body builds of small twigs.

This issue is very noticeable, especially up close, and you have to wonder if a lack of muscle will make it easy to bump Vesey and Buchnevich off of the puck once they are facing the big guns.

While everyone is interested to see how these two perform in the offensive zone, it was equally as interesting to watch them in the defensive zone.

I’ve said this before, but Buchnevich looks lost at times, not just in the defensive zone, but also in the neutral zone. It’s very obvious that he hasn’t figured out how the Rangers move the puck through their breakout.

You can often catch him gliding as if he’s thinking, “where should I go”. This problem is most likely classic overthinking, especially for a player who is new to the system, but he will need to figure things out quickly if he is going to be the player everyone hopes he can be.

Here is the full lineup for today’s game:

Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, JT Miller
Jimmy Vesey, Phil McRae, Nicklas Jensen
Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Jesper Fast
Ryann Gropp, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Brown

Brady SkjeiAdam Clendening
Mat Bodie – Dan Girardi
John Gilmour – Michael Paliotta

Antti Raanta and Magnus Hellberg will man the goal crease.

Once again, head coach Alain Vigneault has assembled an intriguing first line. Keep an eye on the chemistry between those three.

I’m also interested to see how international competition has affected J.T. Miller‘s game. Will he look tired or fresh? Keep an eye out.

I said this on social media, but Nicklas Jensen had been a huge disappointment. It’s not that he isn’t making big plays, but rather how he looks when the puck is in the defensive zone.

Jensen will find his position along the side boards and just wait for the puck, rather then going to the dirty areas to dig the puck out. Pair this with cherry picking, and you can start to see the problems.

He’s been given yet another opportunity today, and it will be interesting to see if his battle level is higher.

If you watched Thursday’s game, then you probably didn’t notice Michael Grabner much, and with good reason. He is a strong skater, but has rocks for hands.

While Grabner has a wicked slap shot, he didn’t have many opportunities to showcase what his release looks like below the face-off dots. With his new line mates (Fast and Gerbe), he will should have more offensive opportunities today.

Adam Clendening was a pleasant surprise in his first preseason outing. Brady Skjei on the other hand, was very mediocre. If he can’t demonstrate that he can be an offensive threat, then I firmly believe he will enjoy some quality time in Hartford once again this season.

Antti Raanta looked solid in his first game. His side-to-side movement is “Lundqvist-like”, and his rebound control was good. If you watch Raanta closely though, you’ll notice that he sets up much later than Henrik Lundqvist does as the play is approaches, which is exactly why the Devils scored their lone goal on Thursday.

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