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Skjei's Confidence Continues to Grow With Rangers

Defenseman talks start of regular season, playing with Girardi

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Defenseman Brady Skjei was the first to admit he had a subpar preseason after being one of the bright spots for a Rangers team that exited the playoffs in the first-round.

But since the NHL schedule changed from exhibition games to those that count, No. 76 has been much happier with the way he's played and contributed during his first season in New York.

"I feel good," Skjei told following Tuesday's practice. "Obviously I didn't have the preseason I wanted to. Was fighting the puck a little bit. Now, I feel confident and kind of got that confidence back that I had last year in the playoffs. I feel good and just trying to get better every day."

The 2012 first-round pick appeared in seven games last season and all five postseason games against Pittsburgh, so a lot of this is still new to the 22-year-old. He said he's looking to just keep building off success, whether it be in a game or even after a strong practice.

"You want to start by having a good shift and just keep building off that," said Skjei, who is averaging 14:48 of ice time through six games this season. "You don't want to try and do too much too early and get yourself in trouble.

"That's like practice too," Skjei continued. "Try and come here and get a few things done every day and hopefully it just builds on and on."

After playing mostly with defenseman Adam Clendening to start the season, Skjei was paired with Dan Girardi Sunday night against the Coyotes, after No. 5 returned to the lineup after missing three games with a groin injury. The veteran Girardi praised the young Skjei's game.

"He's a young guy but he's playing with some veteran poise out there," Girardi said Sunday after scoring the game-winning goal off a play created by Skjei. "Especially [Sunday], he really handled the puck well. When he had the opportunity, he has good legs and good skating ability and he used that tonight to his advantage."

Video: ARI@NYR: Girardi smashes slap shot past Domingue

Skjei said he's learning from players like Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh, who are the veteran anchors to a defensive group that has had much success in New York.

"It's been awesome," Skjei said of playing with Girardi. "I think him, all the guys, Mac, Staal are all guys that have been here for a while. Whenever they say anything on the bench or in the locker room, I try and take it all in for sure. Playing with [Girardi] on the ice, he's always talking and telling me to do this. It helps me out a ton."

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