What to know about the lineup for Rangers-Islander preseason game 1

The 2021-22 season kicks off tonight as the New York Rangers take on the Islanders at Madison Square Garden in their first preseason game.  There will be many new faces in the lineup with only eight Rangers in the lineup who were with the team the entire last season.

With coach Gerard Gallant making his debut behind the Rangers’ bench, he made it clear that the first few exhibition games would be an opportunity for young players to get on the ice at Madison Square Garden.  He was true to his word.   Here is the project starting lineup:

20 Kreider– 93 Zibanejad – 13 Lafrenière
21 Goodrow – 72 Chytil – 74 Kravtsov
29 Hunt – 47 Barron – 15 Gauthier
50 Cuylle – 73 Rempe – 70 Henriksson

55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
12 Nemeth – 64 Lundkvist
5 Tinordi – 22 Bitetto

40 Georgiev
32 Huska

Notes on the lineup

There are some interesting notes in looking at the lineup, but it’s much too early to draw any conclusions.

  • Here are the totals:  12 NHL veterans, 3 players with some NHL experience, 5 rookies.
  • The eight players making their Rangers debut are Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, Patrik Nemeth, Nils Lundkvist, Jarred Tinordi,  Will Cuylle, Karl Henriksson and Matt Rempe.
  • Alexis Lafrenière is replacing Pavel Buchnevich on right wing on the KZB line.   It’s worth watching to see how he does.  It’s clear that they are looking to try him on the right wing before Kreider who has not had success on the off wing.
  • Vitali Kravtsov gets the start on the second line at right wing.   If Lafrenière ends up moving over, that sets up a battle between Kravtsov and Kakko for that spot on the second line with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin.
  • Before camp, Chris Drury said that he sees both Filip Chytil and Morgan Barron as centers.  That’s where they will be playing this game.
  • Julien Gauthier will get a chance to show Gallant what he can do.  It’s interesting that he gave up his number 12 and is wearing number 15 this season.  Patrick Nemeth is wearing number 12, though he hasn’t worn that number since 2017 when he was with the Stars.
  • The fourth line features three rookies who look to be leaving camp sooner than later.  Cuylle and Rempe are ticketed for a return to Canadian juniors and Henriksson is slated to return to the Swedish Hockey League for another season with Frölunda where he will play on the top line.
  • Matt Rempe is 6’8″ and no New York Ranger has ever been taller.  He matches the height of John Scott who played in 2012 and Chris McAlister who was also 6’8″ and played for the Blueshirts in 2004.
  • The pairing of Nils Lundkvist and Patrik Nemeth has been anticipated since they signed the big Swedish veteran this summer.
  • Watching Jarred  Tinordi and Tony Bitetto will be fun as both will be fighting to win the job of seventh defenseman on the team.
  • Adam Huska will be battling Tyler Wall for the job as second goalie in  Hartford behind Keith Kinkaid.
  • While the goalies will probably split the playing time, it’s worth noting that Georgiev has  appeared in10 games against the Islanders, the most against any team and he has a 7-3-0 lifetime record with two shutouts, a 1.84 Goals Against Average and .939 Save Percentage.

In his post-practice comments on Saturday, coach Gallant stressed that this is only the first game. When asked what he is is looking for his answer was  “a good work ethic.”   He went on to say “They’re exhibition games. They’re not important but they’re important….people are fighting for jobs, battling for jobs. You’d like to see people play real good in those games. I’m not overly concerned with the results…I’d sooner see us play well, getting ready for the first regular season game.”

He discounted any prior history with the Islanders and said winning isn’t everything when it comes to the first preseason game.  “We wanna win them all but it’s more about the process  of getting people to playing together, getting to know my players and the players getting to know me.”

It’s hard to believe that the Rangers played no exhibition games before the start of last season.  They have a full schedule of six games and Gallant has made it clear that by the final two games he intends to have his lineup decisions made and the team needs to be playing the way he wants them to.

It’s a busy week with four exhibition games this week and only two in the ten days leading up to the season opener.  After tonight versus the Islanders, the Boston Bruins come to town on Tuesday.  The Rangers end the week with games in Newark and Boston.

Training camp roster cuts

As expected, the Rangers have cut back on the starting 60 players at training camp.   They returned a number of players to juniors and players also to the Hartford Whalers training camp.

2021 draft picks center Jayden Grubbe (3rd round), center Ryder Korczak (3rd round) and goalie Talyn Boyko (4th round) along with 2020 picks center Evan Vierling  (5th round), and goalie Dylan Garand (4th round) were returned to their junior teams.

Of the eight players sent to Hartford only Jake Elmer (RW), Patrick Khodorenko (C) and Hunter Skinner (D) are under contract to the Rangers.   Michael O’Leary (LW), Alex Whalen (RW), James Sanchez (LW), Zach Berzolla (D), and Zach Giuttari (D) were all signed by the Wolf Pack.

The remaining players destined for juniors or Hartford will probably see some action on Tuesday versus the Bruins.  14 of the 47 players left fall into that category.

About the game

The game is scheduled to start at 7pm with the telecast on the MSG Network.  There will be no pregame show, coverage starts at 7pm.

Blue Line Station hosts a live conversation during each regular season game.  It’s where you can share your thoughts about the game and team with your fellow Blueshirts faithful.  It may only be an exhibition game, but we will have the live thread will be up just before game time.  Please join in!