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Vesey to Make MSG Debut Thursday Night

Penciled in on line with Hayes, Nash

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

The Rangers received plenty of production from new faces in Tuesday's preseason win over the Islanders, and one player in particular hopes to follow in those footsteps Thursday night.

That player, rookie Jimmy Vesey, has stated throughout training camp and in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament that he's out to prove he's ready to play at the National Hockey League level this season. 

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has the 23-year-old in a position to succeed, as Vesey is expected to skate on a line with Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash for tonight's matchup with the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

"I think we all have good hockey sense and like to use our bodies down low," Vesey said earlier this week when he was first put on a line with Hayes and Nash in practice. "I think if we can hang on to pucks below the dots, we can be successful."

Vesey won the Hobey Baker Award last season for the top player in the NCAA after scoring 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points with the Crimson. The year prior, Vesey netted 32 goals and added 26 helpers to finish with 58 points in 37 games, good enough for second in Hobey Baker voting.

Newcomers Nathan Gerbe and Michael Graber will get their first look in preseason tonight, with Gerbe on the left wing of Brandon Pirri and Pavel Buchnevich. Grabner, meanwhile, will play left wing on a line with Marek Hrivik and Jesper Fast. Rounding out the fourth line will be tryout Maxim Lapierre and wingers Nicklas Jensen and Adam Tambellini. 

Video: Zibanejad sets up Pirri for a power-play goal

Speaking of Pirri, he returns to the lineup after scoring a goal and an assist in Tuesday's win. But the change tonight is he'll be playing center rather than left wing, which he played Tuesday. 

Why the change?

Vigneault said Pirri told him he can play all three forward positions, so the bench boss is exploring his options.

Kevin Klein and recent addition Nick Holden will both make their exhibition debuts, playing alongside each other on the team's top pairing. Dylan McIlrath works back into the lineup after scoring Tuesday night, while Chris Summers, Ryan Graves and free agent signee John Gilmour round out the rest of the defensive group.

Goaltenders Antti Raanta and Mackenzie Skapski are expected to split the workload against the Devils. It'll mark Raanta's first appearance of the preseason, while Skapski made 17 saves Tuesday against the Islanders.

The Lineup

Vesey - Hayes - Nash

Gerbe - Pirri - Buchnevich

Grabner - Hrivik - Fast

Tambellini - Lapierre - Jensen

Holden - Klein

Graves - Summes

Gilmour - McIlrath

Raanta

Skapski

Rangers vs. Devils

7 pm at Madison Square Garden

Watch on MSG Network

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