In case you missed it, there was some big, big blog news in the post below. So scroll down to see it. Or click here. But don’t miss it again.
Going to have a bunch of season preview stuff coming up, starting with — probably — my new colleague Andrew Gross’s league preview. Then perhaps some news from Rangers practice regarding their roster move — I still think the logical move is to temporarily demote Brady Skjei until they can figure out what to do with Dylan McIlrath.
I will have my Rangers previews and predictions after that, mostly on the new blog format (yikes), which is scheduled to debut Wednesday (double yikes).
RANGERS NOTEBOOK: Rangers to keep seven D-men, so a move is coming
The Rangers, according to coach Alain Vigneault, are likely to start the season with only one spare forward and, for cap considerations, one spare defenseman, meaning at least one more roster move will happen Tuesday.
All NHL teams must have their salary cap-compliant, 23-man maximum rosters submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Those rosters are fluid – teams can always make changes to them.
The Rangers, who open their season Thursday against the Islanders at the Garden, had 24 players on the roster as of practice Monday, and that included Oscar Lindberg (who will start the season on injured reserve, and thus not count against the 23 maximum), and it included eight defensemen.
To get down to seven defensemen, the logical move would be to demote rookie Brady Skjei, however temporarily, to Hartford of the AHL. Skjei, who had a difficult training camp and preseason, is the only Rangers defenseman who would not require waivers to be sent down.
That would leave the Rangers with three natural lefties (Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Nick Holden) and four righties (Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath). Then the opening night decision would be whether Clendening or McIrath plays.
“Dylan, I thought, played well during training camp,” Vigneault said. “The games that he was asked to play, he played to his strengths. He’s trying to get better every day, with andn without the puck. He’s given it his best. He’s worked extremely hard, very professional, works hard in the gym and is trying to put his best foot forward.
Vigneault said he still has not decided on his fourth line, which will likely be composed of three of these: Josh Jooris, Jesper Fast, Michael Grabner and Brandon Pirri.
OSCAR ALMOST READY: Lindberg, recovering from summer hip surgery, is still two to four weeks away from returning, and on his target of being back at some point in November. Lindberg has been fully cleared for contact and has been practicing with the team.
“Anything ahead of (November) is a bonus,” he said. “It’s good to be back with the boys. Skating-wise I feel good. I don’t have any pain or anything.”
VIGNEAULT WON’T SAY BOO: Prospect Cristoval “Boo” Nieves had two strong games in Hartford over the weekend and the Rangers are considering putting him on the opening-night roster.
Nieves, bigger and faster than he was in the past, opened eyes at the Traverse City prospects tournament last month, and might have made the team if he hadn’t suffered a likely concussion there. He was limited to one preseason game with the Rangers.
“I would say 50/50 right now,” Vigneault said. “I would say more no than yes.”
It was pointed out to him that would make it less than 50/50, Vigneault laughed, “That was French math.
“But in the back of my mind here, I’ve got him, because I heard he played so well in Traverse City and the one game he was able to play for us … I like that size and I like that skating.”
KLEIN MAINTENANCE: Kevin Klein did not practice, having been given a “maintenance day.” Lindberg skated in his place on defense.
RANGERS MAY PLAY IN WEST POINT OUTDOOR GAME IN 2018
An NHL game outdoors at West Point’s Michie Stadium?
If it happens, count the Rangers’ players in, especially the eight Americans on the roster.
According to a report by Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada this past weekend, the NHL has interest in, and has begun the process of considering West Point as a potential site for Winter Classic-type event, perhaps in 2018, at the U.S. Military Academy’s football stadium.
Historic Michie Stadium, which holds 38,000 spectators, opened in 1924, two years before the Rangers were founded – the coming season to be their 90th anniversary season.
“Cool,” said Chris Kreider. “It would be amazing. Honestly, what we do is trivial compared to what they do, so it would be cool to just be in that kind of environment.
“If we are granted that opportunity, I just hope we win,” he laughed.
“It would be really cool,” Derek Stepan added. “Those games are so much fun, those outdoor games. I would say that one a year is enough, and the year we did two was a bit of overload, but one a year, if you get the opportunity to be part of those outdoor games, they’re really fun.
“To be able to go do it at West Point would be something really special.”
The caveat, as was the case when the Rangers played a pair of “Stadium Series” games at Yankee Stadium in the 2013-14 season, is that the Rangers cannot be the home team in any venue other than Madison Square Garden per the terms of their agreement with New York City for tax exempt status. Hence they were the visitors against the Islanders and Devils at Yankee Stadium. They also played a Winter Classic game at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park in 2012. They won all three.
The Rangers had planned to do some training and team-bonding at West Point prior to last season, but that was scuttled due to bad weather.
The Devils and Florida Panthers played a preseason game at Army’s Tate Rink Saturday.
The Rangers just completed a weekend of team-building with the NYPD and first responders, which included tours of the World Trade Center site and memorial museum.
Photos by Getty Images.