As the Rangers "inch closer" to forming their Opening Night roster, in David Quinn's words, another piece of the puzzle rejoined them on Monday.
Tony DeAngelo was out with his teammates for the first time in Training Camp, a welcome step forward both for the 23-year-old defenseman and for the Rangers as they make the halfway turn on their preseason schedule. His arrival in practice comes three days after he and the Rangers came together on a contract that would allow him to start his Training Camp in earnest.
"This is a good spot for me, it's a good situation," DeAngelo said. "I'm just happy to be back."
Now that he is, the Rangers can start to see their Opening Night defense corps coming together. After trimming four players from their Training Camp roster on Monday, the Blueshirts are down to 36 players in camp; 12 of those are defensemen, and adding DeAngelo gives them three righty shots on the blue line, along with first-year Blueshirts Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox.
The next step forward, though, is to get DeAngelo into some preseason games. The Rangers have three of those remaining, continuing on Tuesday night at the Garden against the Islanders. DeAngelo won't play in that one; Quinn said Thursday's Garden match with the Flyers is looking more realistic, one week before the Rangers host Winnipeg to kick off the 2019-20 season.
As for Monday, DeAngelo took some extra skating work on the side of the afternoon practice with skills coach Mark Ciaccio, and said afterward that he's feeling right on course.
"I was skating at home every day, so it's just getting used to the practices again. It'll take me a couple of days," DeAngelo said. "But the legs, I feel good - get the lungs back and I'll be all right."
"He's in great shape, so I don't foresee it taking that much time," Quinn said. "He's definitely going to get in before the regular season starts."
It was when the regular season was finishing last year that DeAngelo really turned up his game. After being a healthy scratch for 15 games in the first half of the season, including six straight during a stretch in the season's first month, DeAngelo came on to finish the year by playing in 29 of the Rangers' last 31 games, his average ice time during the stretch topping 20 minutes. He had points in 17 of those games, including a streak of eight straight games with an assist from Feb. 12-27.
"Once I got into the second half, on a consistent basis I thought I played well," DeAngelo said. "So I'm going to try to just pick up where I left off there; I'm not going to change much. I had a good summer, I feel good physically and everything, so I'm just going to try to bring the same thing, and hopefully contribute the same way I was."
DeAngelo compiled 18 assists from Feb. 4 through the end of the regular season, the same number Trouba put up during that stretch and fewer than only three defensemen in the League (Keith Yandle, Brent Burns and Erik Gustafsson). He was asked on Monday whether he feels pressure to back those numbers up at the start of the new season.
"I'm pretty confident that I can back it up and then some, to be honest with you," he said. "I think I got a lot more to give.
"But we're all looking to win here. We obviously want to take a big step forward this season, so whatever it takes for us to win I think everybody's going to be on board. Obviously everybody wants to have personal success, but we're looking to put the team first, and everything else will fall into place."
BACK TO THE ISLAND: As the Rangers prepare to host the Islanders for a preseason game on Tuesday, their regular-season road games against the Isles got a change of venue, with the rivalry returning to Nassau Coliseum for the first time in four years.
The Blueshirts' Jan. 16 and Feb. 25 games, originally scheduled for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, will now go off at the Coliseum, officially known as NYCB Live. The Jan. 16 matchup completes a home-and-home set against the Isles, with the opener at the Garden on Jan. 13.
The Jan. 16 game will be the Rangers' first visit to the Coliseum since March 10, 2015, when Rick Nash's 39th goal snapped a third-period tie in a 2-1 Ranger win. The Blueshirts are 6-1-1 in their last eight trips to Uniondale.
The Rangers' final preseason game this season, on Saturday, is an Islander home game that will be played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.