New York Rangers lineup for first preseason match against Islanders features Kaapo Kakko on top line

The New York Rangers lineup for their first preseason game against the New York Islanders on Monday night will look different than the initial setup for the start of training camp.

Head coach Gerard Gallant noted that the players in Group 1 for Sunday’s first practice session will most likely be used in tomorrow’s contest.

“I think the majority of the first practice group will play,” Gallant said. “Some guys don’t have to make the team and some other guys better play their tails off.”

Update: Lineup below is confirmed for tonight’s game versus Islanders.

Here’s a breakdown of the lines and d-pairings per multiple reports:

  • Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko
  • Vesey – Chytil – Kravtsov
  • Trivigno – Carpenter – Reaves
  • Sykora – Rydahl – Othmann
  • Miller – Trouba
  • Jones – Schneider
  • Hajek – Welinski
  • Shesterkin
  • Garand

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM ET and the game will air on MSG Network.

New York Rangers prepare for first preseason game

rangers vs islanders
Mar 17, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) tangles with New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers opened up camp with several days of scrimmages that includes Sammy Blais on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. However, it looks like Kaapo Kakko will get the first call on right wing tomorrow night.

“We made the lineup yesterday,” Gallant revealed. “The lineup for the first three days (scrimmages) meant nothing and tomorrow’s lineup means nothing. It just guys playing with different people.”

Kakko, 21, recorded 18 points in 43 games last season after dealing with three different stints on the injured list. Maybe the Rangers would like to see if the second overall pick from 2019 can hit a 107 mph slap shot in a game.

“I started with the gym and did more skating after that,” Kakko said in camp. “I think my shot is getting better– a little bit.”

Meanwhile the rest of the lineup is a complete mix and match that appears to have come out of nowhere.

One move of note has Jimmy Vesey on a second line with Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov. The former Ranger is at camp on a PTO looking to earn a standard NHL contract.

“I know what type of player [Vesey] is,” Gallant explained. “We’ll see where he fits at the end of camp. He’s a good skater, PK guy, and he looks pretty good out there.”

The third and fourth lines are very interesting with Bobby Trivigno skating with what I believe will be 2/3 of the checking line featuring Ryan Carpenter and Ryan Reaves.

Three players not expected to make it out of camp are Adam Sykora, Brennan Othmann, and Gustav Rydahl. Sykora and Othmann will be fun to watch as they represent the future of the Rangers. On the other hand, Rydahl is a 27 year-old free agent that will look to put his best foot forward to be considered as an early call up candidate.

Zac Jones or Libor Hajek on the third pair?

The defense will feature last season’s top four pairing of K’Andre Miller and newly named captain Jacob Trouba. Of course, all eyes will be on the left side of Braden Schneider, who will anchor the third pair in 2022-23.

At practice, both Zac Jones and Libor Hajek took turns skating with Schneider so the expectation will be to see the same against the Islanders.

Jones, 21, registered two assists in 12 games for the Rangers last season. He also led all Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman with 35 points in 52 games. For his brief NHL career, he’s played 22 games and recorded 6 helpers.

Hajek, 24, played in only 17 games last season and registered just 1 assist with a -10 rating. In his 94 game career, all with the Rangers, he’s picked up 3 goals and 11 points while averaging 15:10 per night.

Free agent signing Andy Welinski will round out the defense. He is expected to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack this season.

In goal, Igor Shesterkin will likely get the first half while highly-touted goalie prospect Dylan Garand will play the second half.

Garand, 20, had an amazing record of 34-9 and 4 shutouts for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers last season. His GAA was 2.16 and his .925 SV% were good for second in the WHL. The young netminder followed it up with an undefeated gold medal performance for Canada at the World Juniors in August.

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