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Nieves Makes Most of Preseason Audition

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers rookie Cristoval 'Boo' Nieves said prior to yesterday's game that it was a long time coming for him to play a game with the Rangers' jersey on. And after it was all said and done, the center was pleased with the effort he put forward.

"It was a good first time out there," Nieves said after the Rangers' 4-2 loss against the Flyers. "I felt like there were parts where I was in the game and parts where I could have done a little better. I feel like for my first game it was a good start."

An injury prevented the 2012 second-round pick from seeing more action in the preseason following an impressive Traverse City prospects tournament, but Nieves said he felt he got up to the speed of an NHL game after a few shifts.

"It was definitely what I expected and I thought I caught on pretty quickly," the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Nieves said. "I feel like it took me a shift or two but once I got my feet moving - especially after that 2-on-1 with [Marc] Staal - I felt like I was pretty in the game."

The 2-on-1 came late in the first period with the team shorthanded. Nieves attempted a pass to Staal that was broken up. But Nieves got the puck back, but did not see goaltender Michal Neuvirth out of position, and attempted another pass to Staal.

After the game, Nieves chalked the misplay up as a rookie mistake.

"I feel like if I pick my head up, that's a pretty easy goal," Nieves said with a laugh. "Hopefully I get another shot at that."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said he was pleased with Nieves' performance, especially since the 22-year-old hadn't played a game in several weeks.

"I saw a big, strong skating centerman that hadn't barely played in the last two weeks," Vigneault said. "I liked some of the things he did."

But what to do with Nieves now that the preseason is over? Vigneault said the team could opt to send Nieves to Hartford (AHL) to play some preseason games this weekend, rather than have him just practice with the big club. Nieves does not have to clear waivers.

Nieves, who played at Madison Square Garden several times during his tenure at the University of Michigan, said it was "really special" to wear the Rangers sweater at The Garden for the first time.

"Going out for warmups, it just kind of hit me, like 'this is it,'" Nieves said. "I felt like I put my best foot forward and hopefully I can continue to do that."

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