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Speed is 'Identity' of Rangers

Quickness Throughout the Lineup Reaps Benefits Early

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

The Rangers added speed throughout its forward group this summer, bringing in fast skaters like Michael Grabner and Brandon Pirri to a lineup that already featured Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello.

So it wasn't a surprised to anyone watching Thursday night's 5-3 victory over the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden that the Rangers will look to use that quickness to tis advantage this season to not only improve the offense, but to take some pressure off the defense.

"I think that's the identity of our team," said Pirri, who scored a goal and added an assist in his Rangers debut. "All four lines can skate and you can see that if we're good defensively, guys are jumping and it puts the other team on their heels a lot and it creates a lot of time and space. 

"It's fun to be a part of," Pirri added. "I think the fact that all four lines can do it brings a big element to our team."

Pirri's insertion onto the fourth line with Grabner and Jesper Fast not only added speed to that line, it also added some offense as well, allowing head coach Alain Vigneault to roll four lines that could find the back of the net. And it paid off, as Grabner opened the scoring for the Rangers Thursday night, with Pirri and Fast picking up assists.

Video: NYI@NYR: Grabner buries a rebound past Halak

"AV wants us to be a fourth line that can be responsible all over the ice, be able to play against their first line and stuff," Fast said Friday after practice. "Just got to play our game. Play to our structure. Me and Grabs, play with our speed. Just keep it simple, get it deep and create chances from there."

While Grabner - one of the League's top penalty killers - and Fast - one of the best defensive-forwards for the Rangers over the last three seasons - could be looked at as defensive-minded players, Pirri said not so fast.

"I wouldn't say they're completely defensive guys," Pirri said. "I mean that pass that Quickie made to me on the pass was a pretty big time pass. Grabs bring a big speed element that opens up for more skill guys. It was a lot of fun getting that first one under my belt and for Grabs too, being his first time here. It's still early, but I thought we had pretty good chemistry for the first one."

By no means were the Rangers a slow team a year ago, but captain Ryan McDonagh said that speed can not take nights - or even shifts - off, or the Rangers will pay for it on the scoreboard.

"I think it's got to be a strength of our's. It can't just happen in bits and pieces of a game," McDonagh said. "If you get into the habit of making it a part of your game continually, it puts pressure on those D-men. They may not be able to jump up because they're worried and keep the gap they want to keep because of the speed we have. Hopefully it allows us to spend more time in the offensive zone and get out of our end quickly."

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