Report From the Final Practice of the Offseason

The regular season is finally upon us! The ice is frozen, the jerseys are fresh, and the hockey hair is flowing. The Blueshirts held their final offseason practice today and there are some interesting things to note.

Line Combinations

According to Justin Tasch of The Daily News, the Rangers are rolling with the following lines:

On the forward side, there is not much surprise here. Jimmy Vesey becomes the odd-man-out in amongst the wingers being slotted on the fourth line. Filip Chytil is going to be thrust into the limelight centering Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. He’s got some highly skilled players on his wings, but he’s going to have to perform and show why he was worth the 21st pick in the 2017 NHL draft. Paul Carey will have a chance to make his case for playing time with Jesper Fast recovering from his offseason hip surgery.

The real fascinating point here is that Anthony DeAngelo is skating with Marc Staal on the third pair, while Nick Holden is skating with Steven Kampfer on the extra pair. This, in my mind, puts the Rangers blue line in the best position. DeAngelo’s style of play allows Staal to be a true stay at home defenseman, while his partner is active offensively.

The only aspect that I find odd, and I don’t think I’m alone on this one, is that Andrew Desjardins is still with the team. It could be because the team is still not completely sold on Desharnais, or they want to keep him around in case of injury or a struggling player who needs a break. But it seems like the Rangers are caught in the middle of not knowing what to do.

Power Play Units

David Desharnais on the second unit is interesting. Kevin Hayes was the main puck handler on the second unit last season. And maybe that’s why he was replaced because the team’s PP struggled from around mid-December until March. Hayes is a good stick handler, but he tends to overhandle the puck and not move it towards the net or to a teammate. Maybe this is AV sending his team a signal that it should be shoot first all the time. But I will guarantee you that if Desharnais doesn’t play well on the man-advantage, Hayes will be in there faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle.”

Getty Images

Jesper Fast

As I mentioned earlier, Fast is in the middle of his recovery from offseason surgery, a story we broke on FullTilt weeks before the team announced it. Fast has been one of the team’s most important players since joining the Rangers a few years ago. And you know what you’re going to get from him, whether he is having a good game or not. He will be the first player in the corner, the first to block a shot, and he will never give up on a play. Seeing him back in full contact practice lets us know that he’s closer to returning than originally planned.

Alternate Captain Zuccarello

After Dan Girardi was bought out by GM Jeff Gorton, the Rangers were left with a vacancy in their leadership group. And that vacancy has been filled. The team announced today that Mats Zuccarello will wear an “A” on his sweater this season. Zucc has been one of the most consistent Rangers players the last few seasons and is exactly the kind of player you want leading the troops.

It all starts tomorrow night and we’ll be with you all throughout the Rangers’ quest for the Stanley Cup! Make sure to follow me, @ZakFTNYR, and the blog, @FullTiltNYRBlog, for all the up to the minute news and updates.

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