New York Rangers celebrate win.

The end of September represents a lot of things in the sports world.  Both college and professional football are well into their seasons and baseball is wrapping up its regular season and heading into the playoffs.  For hockey, things are about to get very interesting.  The New York Rangers have just finished up a couple of preseason games with the Islanders (winning 4-1) and the Bruins (losing 3-2 in OT.)  For all its worth, the preseason is exactly that – the preseason.

Don’t get too excited or too worried about preseason game results.  The NHL is very different from other major sports in that the preseason essentially is training camp for each team and these exhibition games are just tools to get players ready for the real action coming in two weeks.

Training Camp Notes

Jimmy Vesey: Talk about trying to re-invent yourself.  Vesey is literally on a PTO contract which in common terms he’s trying out for the team.  Vesey has no guarantees for tomorrow and is fighting to find a fourth line forward position and possibly a special teams role with the power play and penalty killing.  Vesey has come full circle after being drafted out of Harvard back in 2012 as the 66th overall pick.  While Vesey eventually found his way onto the Blueshirts, he’s kicked around the NHL for most of his career and since Covid-19 has found his way to multiple teams.

Coming essentially “home” to the Rangers on a PTO contract, Vesey looks to redefine his role with his original team and possibly rejuvenate his playing career.  So far into the preseason, Vesey seems to be very productive with a power play goal against the Islanders and two assists last night against the Bruins.  Whatever head coach Gerard Gallant and GM Chris Drury decide to do with Vesey, he seems to have put his best skate forward and could be useful on the power play as a specialist.

Jaroslav Halak: The “Ranger killer” is now officially a Ranger.  Jaroslav Halak has made a career out of beating the Rangers and if you can’t beat them, then sign them seems to be Chris Drury’s mantra by bringing Halak on board as a solid backup to Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin.  For his part, Halak knows what his role is as the second goalie on the depth chart and has been the backup to some of the best netminders in the business including Tuuka Rask and Carey Price.

Halak has 35 career games chalked up against the Blueshirts and has a 24-9-1 overall record with five shutouts, a 2.33 goals-against average and a truly solid .927 save percentage.  Halak has bounced around the NHL with numerous teams including Rangers rivals such as the Islanders and the Bruins.  Last night in Boston, Halak made his Rangers debut and gave up one goal on 15 shots and split time with recent signee Louis Domingue.  Halak has made career moments against the Rangers and last year with the Canucks shut the Rangers out twice in three appearances.  Halak provides a solid backup netminder presence for Igor Shesterkin and an insurance policy if the Rangers need to “break the glass” in case of an emergency this season.

Alexis Lafreniere: The biggest preseason note on Lafreniere is what could have happened in last night’s preseason game against the Bruins.  Lafreniere took a friendly fire hit from teammate Hunter Skinner and seemed to seriously injure his right leg in the final minutes of the 3-2 OT loss.  While the Rangers staff seemed to downplay the injury, Lafreniere seemed to be in a lot of pain but as usual stayed on the bench rather than retreat to the locker room in the waning minutes last evening.  Lafreniere had a productive night last night prior to the injury and fired in a goal in the second period.  Lafreniere looked to be comfortable playing on the right with Jimmy Vesey and Vincent Trocheck and hopefully this injury is just a temporary setback prior to the start of the regular season.

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