While ya boys get ready to play preseason Game 2 in Chicago Friday night, we will do a Live Chat at noon. Be there. Or else.
Here’s my story from The Journal News and lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – Life without Derek Stepan — for the next month and a half or so — begins Friday in Chicago for the Rangers.
The Rangers go into the Windy City — new home of Brad Richards — with Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, J.T. Miller and Oscar Lindberg as their four centers for a preseason game. Brassard, Moore and Miller almost certainly were going to be in the middle on opening night pre-injury.
“Nothing has changed for me,” Brassard said. “I’m just going to try and play my game with my linemates. But the four centers who start the season, we’re going to have to step up a little bit and make sure we’re ready to go from game one.”
Lindberg is in competition with Miller, Chris Mueller, Kevin Hayes and veteran Matthew Lombardi for a spot on the 22-man roster Oct. 9. “A great opportunity” for them, coach Alain Vigneault called it.
To be clear and more accurate, Stepan’s fractured left fibula was originally caused by a blocked shot in a pre-training-camp practice. It had been reported here and elsewhere that he’d suffered a bruised foot. Actually, the contusion was to the fibula, the exact same spot that gave out during physical-testing drills on Wednesday.
The injury opens up one more center-ice position for the next 4-6 weeks, and Vigneault said he even got a text from Martin St. Louis prior to Thursday’s practice, the veteran winger volunteering to give it a shot in the middle if needed.
The returning player whose ice time is expected to be most affected by the Stepan injury is Moore. He played mostly on the fourth line last season but moved up when Brassard and Stepan missed games in the Eastern Conference final, and when Richards was demoted in the Stanley Cup Final.
“Like last year when we had guys go down, as a team we’ve got to have everybody do their part and do their job well,” Moore said. “My mentality is to do my job and do it well and do what I’m asked to do.
“I feel comfortable whatever role. I’m asked to do a variety of things at different times, and that’s part of my role.”
Vigneault said that, as planned, he wants to see Hayes on the right wing this preseason, a spot where he was projected to play, where he’s more comfortable, where he might be able to better use his size, and where he might be more NHL-ready.
Prospect Anthony Duclair, who was coming off a 2013 concussion when he came to camp last fall, makes his Rangers debut on the wing with Brassard and Rick Nash. He has junior eligibility left and is a long shot for this season.
“I do (feel ready to play at the NHL level),” Duclair said. “Much better than last year, that’s for sure. I’m going to see how I handle myself against pros … and take it from there.”
Photo by Getty Images.