The Rangers left for Alberta on Wednesday, but before they did, veteran reporter Brian Heyman, filling in for Carp, caught up with Chris Kreider at the MSG Training Center. Here’s Brian’s story, which published today in The Journal News and on lohud.com:
GREENBURGH Chris Kreider skated up and down the ice making memories, jumping from Boston College’s NCAA title team into the playoff heat at chilly NHL rinks, putting the puck in the net five times for the Rangers before he even played a regular-season game.
It was an NHL record. It was the spring of 2012. It was a Garden-rocking run that ended one stop short of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It was a blast,” Kreider said after practice Wednesday at the MSG Training Center. “It was a great introduction to New York, to the New York fanbase and future teammates, management and coaches. It was a lot of fun and definitely an experience I’ll cherish.”
But it was a different experience last season after the lockout got unlocked, a two-way struggle that left the 2009 first-round pick from Massachusetts playing more AHL games than NHL games and taking verbal darts in the media from since-fired coach John Tortorella’s sharp tongue. Now new coach Alain Vigneault is offering everyone a clean slate, and Kreider is trying to earn a place and then make more memorable moments for himself and the team.
Vigneault has been using the 22-year-old left wing with marquee linemates so far in the preseason, Brad Richards and Rick Nash. Vigneault said he likes Kreider’s “speed and size” and sees him as a guy who could potentially be 6-foot-3, 226 pounds of trouble in front and especially help put some power into the power play.
“Big body,” Vigneault said. “If he ever becomes comfortable at doing that, that’s so tough on the opposition’s goaltender. … A goaltender can’t stop what he can’t see.”
Ryan McDonagh indeed sees Kreider getting comfortable at it.
“He’s obviously quick to track down pucks, too, on forechecks,” the defenseman said. “There are a lot of things that excite you for sure. He’s getting more confidence. There should be good things to follow.”
During training camp last January, Tortorella publicly called Kreider “God awful” during some of those 18 playoff games in 2012. Tortorella was rather blunt throughout with reporters about Kreider.
“He was fine with me to my face,” Kreider said. “I didn’t want to read too much into the words said in the media. … I respected what he had to say in person. I tried to improve and tried to better myself. I definitely learned a lot from him.”
Kreider wound up with two goals and one assist in 23 Rangers games, plus one overtime goal and one assist in eight postseason games. And he wound up at 12 goals, 11 assists and minus-11 in 48 AHL games with the Connecticut Whale.
“It was a good learning experience,” Kreider said. “I learned how to be a pro, on the ice, off the ice.”
NOTES: The Rangers left for a four-game, five-night trip to cap the exhibition season. They will next play Monday night at Calgary. Before they departed, forwards Ryan Bourque, Josh Nicholls, Shawn O’Donnell and Michael St. Croix and defenseman Brendon Nash were assigned to Hartford. Goalie Johan Hedberg was released from his tryout agreement.
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