The New York Rangers opened training camp on Sept. 23. They’ve since played five exhibition games with a record of 3-2. They’ve also been busy trimming down the roster. By Oct. 2, the roster was down to 34 players; by Oct. 4, it was whittled down to 26 players consisting of 15 forwards, nine defenseman and two goalies. The team sent several down to Junior, back overseas and to American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack. But there’s still a tough decision to be made on defense.
The Rangers announced they’ll honor Henrik Lundqvist at Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Jan. 28. They’ll be raising Lundqvist’s No. 30 to the rafters. Rod Gilbert was celebrated last week at the Rangers’ annual golf classic. The event was always one of Gilberts’ favorite and more.
Tough Battle Between Jones and Lundkvist
With the roster being trimmed down to 26 players and nine defensemen, the fight for the final spot on the back end is tough. Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist were vying for the final spot on the blue line. They’ve both played pretty well and one of them most likely wouldn’t see the opening night lineup; however, they’ll both no doubt see time in the NHL this season.
According to head coach Gerard Gallant, they’ve both had good camps thus far. “They’re close, they’re both good, young players,” Gallant said. “They both had good camps. Again, we pretty well know our top five, six guys, but there’s a spot there available and we’ll see what’s going to happen.” (From Zac Jones, Nils Lundkvist battling for Rangers’ last spot, NY Post, 10/4/21)
Jones, who finished the 2020-21 season after his college team (Umass) won the national championship, had this to say about the situation, “I still have confidence in myself and I’m going to make it as hard as I can on the coaching staff to send me down.” He also said, “That’s why I feel like I’m here right now. I feel like I’ve played well enough to deserve to be here. I’m going to keep playing the way I can play and whatever happens, happens.”
While Rangers general manager (GM) Chris Drury said this about Lundkvist, “He can skate, he’s got a big shot, he can be on a power play… I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the team.” Jones has 10 games of NHL experience which should help him, but Lundkvist has a high hockey IQ and a heavy, accurate shot while coming off a season in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) where he won the Salming Trophy as the leagues’ best defenseman.
Before Jones was sent down Thursday morning, the thought was that Lundkvist would play at least 10-20 games with the Wolf Pack for North American style hockey game experience, especially since he hasn’t been overwhelming against average NHL talent in exhibition games. However, things flipped around when news of Jones surfaced. Most speculated that these two prospects would be battling for the final spot throughout the final preseason game, Oct. 9. The roster is now down to 25 players.
Rangers to Honor Henrik Lundqvist
Jan. 28, 2022, will be a special day in New York and the Rangers’ history. They’ll be honoring one of their favorite players that ever donned a Rangers uniform and made his sports home in the Big Apple.
“King Henrik” officially retired from hockey on Aug. 30, 2021, due to heart problems, after a one-year hiatus, and after being bought out by the only team he ever played for in his NHL career, will be back in his favorite American city, to have his jersey hung in the rafters. MSG will undoubtedly have extra electricity flowing through its hallowed halls on that night.
A Salute to Mr. Ranger
Gilbert, Mr. Ranger was honored by the entire Rangers organization at their annual preseason golf outing. Adam Graves spoke on behalf of the alumni and the entire Rangers’ organization. Gilbert was celebrated with signs, pictures from his playing days and each participant was given a golf shirt to wear during the outing with a No. 7 patch on their left sleeve.
Rangers Easily Handle Devils
The Rangers easily handled the New Jersey Devils Wednesday at MSG, routing them 6-2. They received contributions from several of their top players. Mika Zibanejad had two goals, Artemi Panarain scored one, so did Kaapo Kakko, Sammy Blais and Barclay Goodrow. Adam Fox and Ryan Strome had two assists each. Ryan Reeves left the game early with a lower-body injury. No word yet on how serious it is.
The battle for one of the final roster spots between Jones and Lundkvist ended earlier than expected. Lundqvist’s night is sure to be fun and sad at the same time. The Rangers organization paid their respects to a legend and the squad took care of the Devils in a swift fashion Wednesday night.
Scott Blair is an author and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, by way of Detroit, MI. Uniquely diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s life in both of those places he calls home. He is now traveling the world, learning and growing as a human and a writer. He was a professional hockey player and then turned to the arts, becoming an actor for about 15 years. His passions turned to poetry, prose, politics, and journalism when he got tired of the Hollywood machine and what it represents. Scott is available for interviews and welcomes questions and topic ideas.