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Lindberg Practices, Roster Moves and Nieves

That and more from Monday's practice

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

After a weekend of team building and a day off on Sunday, the Rangers enter the final stretch of practices before the regular season begins Thursday night against the Islanders.

The Rangers received some positive news in regards to forward Oscar Lindberg, who was cleared for full contact and took part in Monday's practice.

"I feel good," said Lindberg, who continues to rehab after offseason hip surgery. "It's only been four practices with the team, but I've felt good."

While it's certainly a positive step for Lindberg, who had 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 68 games in his rookie season last year, he and head coach Alain Vigneault dispelled any chance he'd be available in the opening handful of regular season games.

Vigneault said he's still about two-to-four weeks away, depending on his conditioning. Vigneault called the injury "serious" and that he's "on schedule and he is doing well."

Defenseman Kevin Klein was given a maintenance day. 

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Vigneault said he does not expect to start the season with the eight defensemen, which is the number currently on the roster for the Blueshirts.

"Still debating a little bit here," Vigneault said when asked about his defense. "We're having some internal discussions here. We have eight defensemen here at this time. I would say that we probably won't start with eight. We'll probably start with seven and so we've got a couple more days here to finalize in our own minds what we're going to do moving forward."

Vigneault said the team is likely to start the season with 13 forwards, which is the number it has now - not including the injured Lindberg.

Does that include rookie Cristoval Nieves, who impressed in his one and only preseason game following an injury he suffered at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament? According to Vigneault, it could.

"Boo we only saw one game, but we like what we saw," Vigneault said of Nieves, calling him by his nickname. "The two games he played at Hartford he played extremely well. From our scouts' perspective, he was probably the best player on the ice for both teams."

Will he be around for Thursday's season opener?

"I would say 50/50 right now," Vigneault said, before later changing those odds to 55/45 against Nieves' inclusion on the roster. "In the back of my mind I've got him - because I heard he played so well in Traverse City and the one game he was able to play for us - I like that size and I like that skating.

"A young guy there that is definitely in the back of my mind and in management's mind."

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Vigneault said he used today to look at some different line combinations, including Derek Stepan centering Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey, as well as Kevin Hayes between Rick Nash and J.T. Miller.

But one line has remained in tact, that of Mika Zibanejad centering Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. While there are still two days of practice before Thursday's game against the Islanders, it appears that trio will be sticking together.

The head coach praised the speed element the line brings, and feels Buchnevich compliments that speed well.

"Both [Kreider and Zibanejad have] a lot of speed, a lot of quickness," Vigneault said of that line. "Mika, right-hander, going to that side. And for some reason, Pavel has just been able to fit real well with his skill level. He doesn't shy away from anything. He goes into the tough areas and traffic and into the corners and is able to retrieve pucks, makes plays when there's a lot of people around. That line ... even though I tried a multitude of different things during camp, that line has stood out and has played real well for us."

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