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Smith Still Learning About Rangers

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

MONTREAL -- Brendan Smith knew a lot about the team he'd be joining when he got the call he'd been dealt to the Rangers from Detroit for a pair of draft picks.

But roughly six weeks after the transaction, Smith is still learning about his new team, who find themselves up 1-0 in their best-of-seven first round series against the Montreal Canadiens.

"There's a lot of things," Smith said when asked what's he's learned about the Rangers since becoming one. "The speed is one thing I knew because we would talk about it [in Detroit] to try and limit their speed and slow them down. Playing with it, they make some great plays."

That speed, according to Smith, makes it easy for a defenseman like him to quickly turn defense into offense, which is a critical part of coach Alain Vigneault's system.

"That's why as a D core, we just want to get it into [the forwards'] hands," Smith added. "They're so fast. That depth … it's hard because for other teams to try and match it, it's a tough thing to do. You almost can't match because of the depth."

The other? The play of the man in net.

"Another area is I didn't know how good Hanky was," Smith said of Henrik Lundqvist. "Everybody talks about the King and how good he was, but to play in front of him is pretty cool."

Video: PHI@NYR: Zuccarello, Smith combine for slick goal

Smith has been a versatile player for the Rangers since coming to New York prior to the Trade Deadline. The fact that he's comfortable on both his natural left and his off right makes him a player Vigneault can move up and down throughout his pairs.

In 18 regular season games as a Ranger, Smith played with just about all of the healthy Blueshirt blueliners. According to, Smith played 165:16 at five-on-five with Nick Holden, the most of any defenseman. But the 28-year-old also skated with Brady Skjei for 48:44, Dan Girardi for 43:05 and Ryan McDonagh for 42:57.

He began the playoffs paired with Skjei, and according to, the two were on the ice for 11:40 at even strength.

"It's been great," Skjei said of playing with Smith. "He's a vocal guy who leads by example, and also has vocal leadership. He's helped me a ton. We've talked a ton now that we're partners and stuff. He plays a physical game, a strong game but also can contribute offensively. Solid player and a really good guy to have in the locker room."

Vigneault said Smith turned in one of his best games as a Ranger, with the bench boss praising his ability to get the puck out of danger.

"I thought he played a real good game [Wednesday]," Vigneault said on Thursday. "I thought he was under control, he moved the puck as good as I've seen him since he's been with us. That's the type of hockey we need from him."

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