Just under half the Rangers remaining in Training Camp are heading down to Philly for Game No. 3 of the 2019 Preseason -- although perhaps the finest sight all day involved one of the players who stayed back home.
The Rangers took the ice in Westchester in two groups on Saturday morning, first the 20 skaters who are set face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, followed by the rest heading out for a practice session - after trimming their roster by four players on Saturday, the Rangers have 41 players in camp. There among the latter group was Artemi Panarin, in a regular blue practice jersey and showing no signs of holding back, just three days after the Rangers took the cautious route in cutting short his preseason debut in Wednesday's second period against the Devils.
And so with three preseason games remaining after the weekend, Panarin did not travel to Philly on Saturday, but among the 20 Rangers who did, 17 of them already have dipped their toes into preseason action; two others, Tim Gettinger and Connor Brickley, earned call-ups to the Rangers' roster last season; while the 20th, Matthew Robertson, was the next Ranger drafted after Kaapo Kakko back in June and will see his first NHL exhibition tonight.
"This is a really big night for me," Robertson told NYRangers.com after Saturday's morning skate. "I mean, I'm really looking forward to it."
Ryan Strome is one of five Rangers set to play in both ends of this Jersey/Philly back-to-back, along with fellow forwards Filip Chytil, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Micheal Haley (who has played in both preseason games so far), as well as goaltender Adam Huska and defenseman Ryan Lindgren. Huska made 15 saves in his half of Friday night's game in Newark, while Lindgren is coming off a physical 20:50 against the Devils.
Strome, who played on Chytil's left on Friday, should line up on Lias Andersson's right on Saturday. "Good opportunity tonight for some guys, myself included, to get another game here and take another step forward," he said. "It's a tough building to play in and they've got a good team, so it'll be a good test for us. We've got to manage the puck better and give ourselves a chance here."
While Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba will pair up once again to lead the Rangers' blueline corps, and Libor Hajek and Adam Fox will reprise their partnership from Wednesday's preseason opener at the Garden, the other D pair will provide a new look.
Lindgren, 21, is slated to play alongside Robertson, the Rangers' No. 2 pick (49th overall) in June's Entry Draft. For the 18-year-old Robertson, it will be his first experience at the NHL level, some three months after being drafted and on the heels of his impressive turns both at Rangers Development Camp in June and in four games at Traverse City earlier this month.
"It's unbelievable," Robertson said. "Getting in my first NHL preseason game and playing against guys who have played in the NHL, and with NHL guys as well. This is pretty cool."
The 6-foot-4, 201-pound lefty shot scored 33 points and was plus-18 in 52 games for WHL Edmonton a season ago, his second full season of Major Junior. At 18 years old he has multiple seasons of junior eligibility left, and if he ends up back in Edmonton for this season he intends to take his experiences in camp, in Traverse City, and in Philadelphia on Saturday night back with him.
"I think (Traverse City) really helped build me up, just got me a little bit more game-ready," Robertson said. "It helped with just getting more comfortable with some of the New York Rangers' systems and kind of applying that in my game. I think that can help build onto my game tonight, and then going forward too."
As for that prospects tournament, Robertson said that "overall I felt it went pretty good. I mean, the first game I didn't think was my best, I thought I was a little bit nervous and kind of was just getting my feet wet. But I thought as the tournament went on, I got a little bit more and more comfortable. I thought I progressed, and then even through main camp here, I'm feeling more and more comfortable. And I'm really looking forward to the first game."
It remains up in the air as to whether Robertson will play that first game over on the right side, or whether Lindgren will make that switch; both are lefty shots and accustomed to the left side.
As for the goaltenders, Huska and Igor Shesterkin will travel down the Turnpike for this one; David Quinn has split the first two exhibitions evenly between his two goaltenders. This would be Shesterkin's first action in a road NHL rink.
While the Rangers play their third game of the preseason, the Flyers are onto their fourth, and their lineup will be fielded from a much pared-down roster. Philadelphia made 18 cuts to its training camp roster on Friday, with new coach Alain Vigneault stating his intention to downsize to give his veterans need more preseason work.
And so the Rangers will see more or less the Flyers' NHL lineup on Saturday, including forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek as well as Philly newcomer Kevin Hayes. The Flyers visit Madison Square Garden on Thursday just before shipping out to Europe, where they will start the regular season against the Blackhawks in Prague.
On Saturday afternoon, the Rangers assigned Gabriel Fontaine, Mason Geertsen, Joey Keane and Patrick Newell to Training Camp with the Wolf Pack.
20 Kreider -- 72 Chytil -- 74 Kravtsov
28 Di Giuseppe -- 50 Andersson -- 16 Strome
38 Haley -- 15 Nieves -- 14 McKegg
25 Gettinger -- 71 Jones -- 33 Brickley
76 Skjei -- 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren -- 97 Robertson
43 Hajek -- 23 Fox