The New York Rangers will open up their season on Thursday, October 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes. The final roster has been set and now it is time to project what their lines will be to open up the season.
Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin have both been ruled out for Game 1. Both are recovering from torn labrums. Callahan is expected to be back earlier than Hagelin. With those two out, it opened up good opportunity for players to take their spots. The Rangers first line will consist of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards. Richards will be playing the wing to start this season as the Rangers have five solid centers on their roster right now. Richards is looking for anything to give himself a spark and this could be it. As for Nash and Stepan, the two showed great chemistry when playing together last year. Nash played his best hockey when he had Stepan setting him up.
The Rangers second line should be Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. This line was the Rangers best during the preseason. There is not a lot of size on this line but there is plenty of skill, speed and grit. Brassard was the Rangers best skater in the playoffs last year. Zuccarello and Brassard both showed great chemistry when playing with each other last year. Pouliot is a player who has never lived up to his potential but could break out with a fresh start.
The third line should consist of Brian Boyle, J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast. This line could be crucial for the Rangers success this season. This line could have everything a good third line needs. They have skill and speed in Miller and Fast. Both players are youthful players who surprised many people with how well they played during the preseason. Throw in a big, physical player like Boyle and you could end up with a third line that could put the puck in the net.
The fourth line will most likely feature Aaron Asham, Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett. Taylor Pyatt could also see himself getting some time on this line depending on injuries. While this line won’t be flashy it will be very gritty. Discipline is what scares me with both Asham and Dorsett but both have surprisingly good shots for players who are considered tough guys. As long as they don’t give up goals they should see around eight minutes a game.
On defense, Alain Vigneault has already told us what pairings he is going to play with. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh will play together for the third straight year. This pair is one of the best shutdown pairings in the league. Expect McDonagh to shine this year with Vigneault’s style giving him more freedom to jump up into the play. The second pairing will be Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto. Staal has looked great on both ends of the ice this season. Del Zotto is still looking to find consistency in his game but has tremendous talent. This pair really depends on how well Del Zotto plays and if Staal can stay healthy. The third pairing will feature John Moore and Anton Stralman. Moore looked great in the preseason but is still very young and very raw. Stralman is one of the most underrated players on the team and the NHL in my opinion. This pair won’t do anything flashy but don’t expect them to be liabilities on the ice either.
We all know that the king, Henrik Lundqvist, is going to be in between the pipes this season. Lundqvist is in his contract year and all reports show that he was one of the main voices in the organization deciding to fire John Tortorella. Lundqvist is going to be tested more than ever this year with the Rangers ready to push the pace. Martin Biron will back him up and will probably get around 15-20 starts this season.
The new regime is getting geared up to make its debut for the Rangers this week. The expectations are high and it is time for the team to make its run.