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Preview: Decisions, Decisions in Blueshirts' Preseason Finale

Roster Spots Up for Grabs vs. Isles

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
Preseason Game 6
Webster Bank Arena - Bridgeport, Conn.
MSG Network

There is one more preseason game to get through before the season can get started, but David Quinn wants to make it perfectly clear that the game is no mere formality.

"Based on our situation and where guys are, there are some very difficult decisions we're going have to make. You've got to finish Training Camp," the Head Coach said. "Someone might do something that keeps them in; someone might do something that keeps them out. That's how tight it is in certain positions."

The Rangers will close out the exhibition schedule against the Islanders on Saturday night in Bridgeport, Conn., at the home rink of the Islanders' AHL affiliate. Before Quinn and Co. can move onto their roster decisions for Thursday's Opening Night at Madison Square Garden, their immediate task was to settle on a lineup for the preseason finale, with roster spots still up for grabs. Following Friday's practice in Westchester, Quinn said "We have a skeleton idea of what we want tomorrow."

The Rangers have 31 players remaining in camp; they'll need to go down to 23 or fewer by the time regular-season rosters are due at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

On Friday, Quinn had a trio of youngsters together, with Vitali Kravtsov and Filip Chytil on either side of Brett Howden - Kravtsov and Chytil both played in Thursday's game against Philadelphia but are a good bet to see one more tune-up; Howden, who did not play Thursday, is a sure thing for Saturday night, and said that he is eager to have the opportunity.

It was only a year ago that Howden surprised some people, perhaps himself included, by making the team out of Training Camp as a 20-year-old straight out of Major Junior. He remained with the Rangers the entire season, playing in 66 games, a number that would have been higher if not for a January injury.

This year, "there's just that familiarity that I have with everyone, and that obviously helps with the comfort and being a bit more confident coming in this year," Howden told NYRangers.com. "That part's different, but on another note, nothing's changed. I'm still here trying to make the team. I don't expect anything, I don't. I know you've got to work for what you get. So the last thing I'm doing is looking too far ahead."

This preseason, he said, "I feel like I haven't played like my greatest games. But I also feel like each day, I'm taking a step forward. And I just really want to have a strong game (Saturday); I'm really looking forward to it."

"Obviously more experience and a little bit more comfortable," Quinn said of Howden's preseason. "But I also think that guys coming back to the second year feel a little bit added pressure internally because they have expectations from within themselves, not only making it but having another level of success. Brett's no different."

The Rangers have won their last two preseason games, both at the Garden, over the Flyers and Islanders. Henrik Lundqvist started both games, stopping all 13 shots he saw in 30 minutes on Tuesday against the Isles, then 32 of 33 shots, plus three more in a shootout, against Philly.

In all, Lundqvist has finished out his preseason stopping 55 of the last 56 shots he faced.
He is likely to be among a sizable group of veterans who will sit out the preseason finale, with Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin dressing as the backstops, as the Rangers prepare for opener at the Garden against the Winnipeg Jets just five days away.

The Islanders, 4-2-0 in the preseason, have not played since Tuesday loss to the Rangers at the Garden. They are down to 31 roster players as well: 19 forwards, 10 defensemen, two goaltenders. "We have so many tough decisions," coach Barry Trotz said.


NUMBERS GAME

Five Rangers share the team preseason lead with two points each. Both of Lias Andersson's points have been goals.

Rangers goaltenders - Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin and Adam Huska - have combined to stop 122 of the last 129 shots (.946).

The Rangers have killed 17 of 20 penalties (85%) during the preseason, including the last 11 in a row.


WHADDYA SAY?

"I've really liked our penalty killing. I thought our penalty kill was big (Thursday) night. Obviously that 4-on-3 was a huge kill by those guys and I really like how they showed some will, and fought through being tired and getting caught out there. I thought they did a real good job, and I thought our 5-on-4 kills were really good." --David Quinn
 

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