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Shattenkirk, Skjei Forming "Building Chemistry" During Win Streak

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

When Kevin Shattenkirk was introduced as a Ranger in July, he mentioned defenseman Brady Skjei as a player he was excited to play alongside of. 

Now four months later, the two are getting their first extended look together and thus far the results have been positive.

"I think the more reps we get, the better we are," Shattenkirk said of his pairing with Skjei. "The thing that I've learned about him is he's able to get himself out of a lot of situations without my help. I think that's something not a lot of players can do."

Shattenkirk said at the start of the year that he's was embracing a leadership role with the Rangers despite it being his first year on Broadway. For Skjei, the experience of playing alongside No. 22 has been a lesson night after night.

"He's great to play with and I'm learning off him every day," he told on Friday. "He's an elite defenseman in this league. Getting the chance to play with him, learn off him in practice and in games, is pretty special. I don't take it for granted."

Skjei recalled his excitement when learning that Shattenkirk had signed with the Rangers on July 1. The second-year blueliner said he's been picking up tips from the veteran since training camp opened, especially on the power play.

"He's really changed our power play and it's become a real threat. I think that's one part of the game where I really try to learn from him," Skjei said. "The way he plays at the top is really impressive. That's one of the things he does really well. It always seems like he's in the right place at the right time. When he decided to come here, I was thrilled."

Shattenkirk said Skjei reminds him of his former Blues teammate Jay Bouwmeester in the way the two blueliners use their speed to their advantage in the defensive zone, which in turn helps Shattenkirk get to the right places on the ice.

"He can skate out of his trouble and recover on plays better than most guys," Shattenkirk said of Skjei. "It allows me to stay in a better position. I think really we just talk through a lot of plays when we come to the bench. When you start to talk to guys and just feed off of them and get an idea of what they do, it gives you a better understanding of how they play."

Coach Alain Vigneault said both players "understand the importance of gapping and defending," and that's been a big reason why the duo has remained intact during this stretch of games. 

"When they've got a good gap and the other team dumps the puck in, Brady sometimes gets the puck and beats them with speed and by skating away from the forecheck, or Shatty will make that subtle little play or breakout pass that permits us to not spend a lot of time in our zone. I like the way both of those guys are building chemistry and it's a good sign for us."

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