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Nieves Adjusting Well to NHL With Rangers

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Boo Nieves said he knew it would be difficult to match his offensive production from his first game of the year, when he registered three assists in his second career NHL match.

But that's not the goal. Instead, the 2012 second-round pick is focused on the small details of his game to stick around in the NHL for an extended period of time.

"I'm starting to feel more confident," Nieves told on Tuesday. "Seven or eight games is a good amount of hockey in terms of finding your role and seeing where you're at in this league and I feel like I've adjusted pretty well.

"Even though I haven't been able to get three assists every night, I think I've still been improving on little things like figuring out our structure, playing well in the D zone and working on faceoffs," he added. "I'm just trying to make sure the little things are right before the big things come."

Nieves said he's feeling more comfortable with his game and his ability to be an effective NHLer every night. Each night brings new opponents he's facing for the first time, presenting a new test every game.

His teammates are noticing a change as well as the 23-year-old gets more acquainted with his new environment.

"I think he's getting more and more comfortable," said Brady Skjei. "I think he's been playing very consistently in that fourth line role right now, and that's a key role for our team. [Coach Alain Vigneault] likes to roll those four lines, and he's been playing well and that line's been going. It really helps our team. Right now, he's a big part of that."

The report on Nieves has always been a big player with above average speed, and not just for his size. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder can fly down the ice, and that's beneficial for his linemates.

"The thing that stands out to everyone and to the fans watching is his skating ability and how well he moves up the ice with the puck," said linemate Jimmy Vesey. "It opens a lot up for everyone else out there."

Skjei said a player with that speed causes havoc for opposing defenses, and luckily for the Rangers, there are players with that speed littered throughout the lineup.

"I think it keeps the other team on its toes," Skjei said. "I feel we have a guy on every line that can really fly. As a defenseman, when you see opposing teams with wings and centers that can skate like that, you're for sure aware of what's going on and where they are on the ice."

Nieves said the direction from the coaching staff has been about competing, and his success in that area of the game has already led to an increased responsibility on special teams.

"They told me to make sure I'm competing. Whomever I'm with, I'm using my speed and things like winning faceoffs," he said. "I've started to find time on the penalty kill. Just making sure the little things are done well before I come around to progressing more offensively."

Vigneault said Nieves' unique blend of size and speed makes for a player possesses immense upside.

"You can see the skating; you can see his size when he's battling in his one-on-one situations. He's hard to get off the puck," Vigneault said. "He's understanding more and more of what we expect from him without the puck and with the puck. 

"He's coming along, Vigneault added. "[He's] a young player with that size and that skating ability - he's got to work on his game and his development. He's got a good chance to be a good player."

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