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Pirri to Center Rangers Fourth Line

Jooris Healthy Scratch

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Brandon Pirri will center the Rangers' fourth-line tonight when the 2016-17 season kicks off against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

Pirri, who finished tied for the League lead with four goals in the preseason, will be between Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast. He is also expected to man the point on the Rangers' top power play unit.

Forward Josh Jooris will be the healthy scratch up front.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said earlier in the preseason he wanted a more defensive-oriented fourth line. And while the inclusion of Grabner and Fast - two of the team's expected top penalty killers - brings a defensive element, Pirri's addition does add some offensive punch.

"I think we're in the process of identifying who goes with who and what makes this team the best team it can be," Vigneault said. "There's still quite a few things up in the air. I would say we're no different than most of the teams. Every team is probably giving themselves between 10 and 20 games to figure things out."

Vigneault said while this is tonight's lineup, teams evolve over time and morph with outside factors often outside the coach's control.

"When I talked at the beginning of [training camp] about having three lines that can play a fast and probably generate a little bit more offense and have guys more as penalty killers," Vigneault stated. "I said in an ideal world I'd like Hank to play so many games, those are all things in an ideal world. You've got to sort things out as they move forward and that's what we're trying to do."

The defensive pairs from yesterday's practice remain in tact, with Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi as the top duo, followed by Marc Staal and Nick Holden, and Brady Skjei with Adam Clendening. Dylan McIlrath is the healthy scratch.

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