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Rangers training camp preview

Panarin, Zibanejad production, starting goalie among keys to watch

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

With training camps set to begin on July 10 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, NHL.com is taking a closer look at each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Today, the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers were 37-28-5 (.564 points percentage) in the regular season and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 11 seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play the No. 6 seed, the Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, .596), in one of eight best-of-5 series, and the winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers finished with their highest point total (79) in the three seasons despite playing 70 games; the final 12 games of the regular season were not played after the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

They were 14-7-1 following the 2020 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25.

"We were digging in," Rangers president John Davidson said. "We had our coaches pushing. We had our players playing to the heights of their talents. The whole thing was starting to really go, and I liked what I saw with our group. We were really becoming a team."

 

[RELATED: 5 questions for Rangers in Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

 

The Rangers, who haven't reached the playoffs since the 2016-17 season, had the hottest player in the NHL before the pause. Center Mika Zibanejad scored 23 goals and 36 points in the final 22 games of the regular season, leading the League in each category during that span. In that same stretch, left wing Artemi Panarin was tied for third in the NHL with 27 points (six goals, 21 assists). Panarin scored 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists), tied for third in the NHL with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.

Video: NYR@NYI: Panarin buries the feed from Lindgren

 

Player to watch

Rookie defenseman Adam Fox became one of New York's most important players this season. Davidson said Fox reminds him of former Rangers defenseman Sergei Zubov, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year, because he plays without flashy speed but with an abundance of confidence, elite passing skills and elusiveness with the puck. Fox, who finished third among current Rangers defensemen with an average of 18:54 of ice time, scored 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists), tied for fourth among NHL rookies.

Video: NYR@DAL: Fox scores in game's opening minute

 

Biggest question

Who will be the starting goalie in Game 1? Igor Shesterkin was solidifying himself as the new No. 1 before the season was paused. The rookie was 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 12 starts after he was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Jan. 6. Alexandar Georgiev made 13 starts after Jan. 6, in part because Shesterkin missed six games with a rib injury, and was 7-5-1 with a 2.87 GAA and .910 save percentage. Henrik Lundqvist started four games in that span, going 1-3-0 with a 3.48 GAA and .872 save percentage. But Lundqvist has dominated the Hurricanes in his career (33-12-1, 2.00 GAA, .934 save percentage), including this season (3-0-0, 2.33, .947).

Video: SJS@NYR: Shesterkin robs Kane shorthanded with glove

 

Injury updates

Chris Kreider, F -- Healthy after missing the final six games before the pause with a fractured foot.

Micheal Haley, F -- Questionable with a bilateral core muscle injury that caused him to miss the last 22 games.

Filip Chytil, F -- Expected to be healthy after missing the last game before the pause, a 3-2 overtime loss at the Colorado Avalanche on March 11, with a lower-body injury.

 

Fresh face

Julien Gauthier was playing in the bottom-six forward group and had two assists in 12 games after the Rangers acquired him in a trade from the Hurricanes on Feb. 18. Gauthier scored 26 goals in 44 games for Charlotte of the American Hockey League before the trade. A strong showing in training camp could land him in a third-line role with Chytil potentially the center.

 

Telling stat

The Rangers have the youngest roster of any remaining team with an average age of 26.2. They could have as many as 10 players who are 24 or younger, including six who are 22 or younger, in the lineup for Game 1.

 

They said it

"I think we're up to it. I really do. I can remember a short series back as a player in 1979. We [the Rangers] had to play [the] Los Angeles [Kings], best-of-3. We ended up winning the series. The first game is so important and then we got on a roll as a club. I like our team. I like our mentality. I like the way they're coached. I think it'll be a great experience for them." -- president John Davidson

 

Projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Pavel Buchnevich

Artemi Panarin -- Ryan Strome -- Jesper Fast

Brendan Lemieux -- Filip Chytil -- Kaapo Kakko

Brett Howden -- Greg McKegg -- Julien Gauthier

Brendan Smith -- Jacob Trouba

Marc Staal -- Tony DeAngelo

Ryan Lindgren -- Adam Fox

Igor Shesterkin

Henrik Lundqvist

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