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Kreider relieved after NHL debut

by Dave Lozo

KANATA, Ont. -- After the game, Chris Kreider called it the most exhausting 12 minutes of his life.

It's hard to blame the 20-year-old, who was making his NHL debut for the New York Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators.

Kreider decided to forego his senior season at Boston College, signing with the Rangers just before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The winger was thrust into action when Carl Hagelin was suspended for three games for his elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson during Game 2, and he made the most of his opportunity in Game 3.

Kreider's official ice time was 11:11. He had one shot and one hit; he nearly scored the game's first goal in the final moments of the second period but failed to connect on a puck that was sitting in the crease.


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"I waved it," said Kreider, who found out he was playing in Game 3 on Sunday night. "I just went right over the top of it. I was so excited and I just missed it."

Did Kreider spend the entire second intermission thinking about that chance?

"I'm still thinking about it," he said."

The missed opportunity will be far less of a nightmare with Brian Boyle scoring in the third period and Henrik Lundqvist making 39 saves to give the Rangers a 1-0 win and 2-1 edge in the series. Overall, it was an encouraging start for Kreider, who spent most of the game on the top line Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, a spot that had been occupied by Hagelin since the middle of March.

Kreider appeared tentative during the first period, but became more comfortable as the game progressed. Coach John Tortorella kept Kreider glued to the bench for the game's final nine minutes and the Rangers protecting a lead, but liked what he brought to the lineup.

"I got much more comfortable starting in the second," Kreider said. "I was a little excited in the first. Maybe I was going a little too hard."

"I didn't mind him in the first period," Tortorella said. "It's a hell of a spot we're putting the kid in. Toward the end when we had the lead, I felt I'd leave him alone and have him watch a little bit and gain his experience that way. He certainly showed he can skate in the League. There's things he needs to work on, but he's in a hell of a spot. I'm really happy with the way he played."

Derek Stepan, who filled Kreider's spot late in the game, said he was impressed by his teammate from Team USA during the 2010 World Junior Championships.

"He played well," Stepan said. "He's got a manner about him that's a high level of maturity. It makes the process easier. He definitely came into a situation most guys don't do. He made big plays all night long. He jumped in real well."

Kreider said he didn't feel any added pressure because his linemates are the team's two offensive stars. On the contrary, he said it helped him relax.

"There wasn't a ton of pressure because they were so helpful in getting me acclimated," Kreider said. "My role is pretty clear. They didn't expect me to make all-world plays. They wanted me to win puck battles and try to get those guys pucks. That was something I could focus on.

"It's a great opportunity though. I mean, I don't think I thought coming into this I wouldn't have been in the situation I was tonight, but it was a great opportunity I was really thankful for it."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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