The New York Rangers finally hit the ice as they face off against the New Jersey Devils with plenty of questions to be answered.
Rangers brass will be keeping a close eye as players battle for a spot on the final roster.
5 Players To Watch
1) Adam Fox – The defenseman had an outstanding week at the Traverse City Prospect tournament prior to the beginning of training camp. He recorded two goals, showing poise on the ice as his skating and speed were tested. He was named an alternate captain in the first game and seemed to take the leadership role with ease. Tonight will be his first game playing against the “big boys.” The coaching staff will keep a keen eye on whether or not his success at Traverse City can translate.
2) Vitali Kravtsov – The 2018 first-round pick has the opportunity to grab a top-six spot in the lineup come opening day. He first has to earn the opportunity, which was how coach David Quinn described his situation last week. The high-flying forward practiced on the right side on Tuesday with Lias Andersson in the middle and Chris Kreider on the left side. The team needs to see Kravtsov continue to attack the net while monitoring his defensive coverage with and without the puck.
3) Boo Nieves – This will be the fourth year with the team and much like the other three, he is on the bubble to make the team out of camp. The coaching staff did not list Nieves as one of the team’s four centers, even though he is lined up in the middle for Wednesday’s game against the Devils. It looks like he will be battling for a position on the wing.
4) Brendan Smith – The defenseman was so very close to being bought out of his contract last summer. Now he is battling to remain with the team as he tries to hold onto the starting spot he had last season. The holdout of Anthony DeAngelo helps his chances slightly, but he needs to play with the same energy he brought in his 63 games last season. It appears he will be on a short leash and needs to come out of the gate fast.
5) Igor Shesterkin – The future No. 1 goaltender will see action as he splits time with backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Shesterkin, who had a phenomenal career in the KHL, will get to see better hockey players in front of him on a smaller ice surface than he played in Russia. The odds are against him to make the team out of camp so these preseason games are important for him to show he can adjust to the North American style of hockey before he plays a game for the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL).
The first preseason game is finally here. The boys can hit someone other than their own teammates. The Garden will be rocking, but there will be plenty of work to be done.
It’s not about wins or losses, but about the player’s determination and chemistry.
For the first time in two years, the Rangers will play a game not as a rebuilding team, but as a team looking to make the playoffs