Many questions need to be resolved in preseason, and the newest predicament the Rangers face and need an answer for is how they'll get through the beginning part of the season without Derek Stepan.
That's another one of those questions that remains unanswered for the time being, but as the Rangers (or at least some of them) get set to travel to Chicago Friday to face the Blackhawks in New York's second preseason game, Alain Vigneault addressed the media and provided some new information that shed light on what the team might experiment with.
The first piece of information Vigneault revealed was what the lineup will look like come Friday. Here's a projected line chart based on what's out there:
Rick Nash — Derick Brassard — Anthony Duclair
Chris Bourque — J.T. Miller — Mats Zuccarello
Marek Hrivik — Oscar Lindberg — Lee Stempniak
Nick Tarnasky — Dominic Moore — Ryan Haggerty
Ryan McDonagh — Dylan McIlrath
Dan Girardi — John Moore
Kevin Klein — Conor Allen
Don't think there was a much of a doubt Miller would begin the season in the Rangers lineup, and any doubt to that notion was quelled by Stepan's injury. Miller is one of only three players who appeared in the Rangers first preseason game that's suiting up against Chicago. It seems pretty clear the objective is to get Miller reps, and into as many game situations as possible.
Outside of Miller, John Moore is also back in. Along with Moore, Marc Staal and Dan Boyle were the other bona fide lineup defenseman in the Rangers opener against the Devils. Working in Moore with Girardi, or really any player that's going to be in the lineup makes sense just to help Moore get a feel for playing with an actual, capable partner.
And Lundqvist is the third returner. Again, not a huge surprise, and you'd imagine next week that Cam Talbot gets back in, and Lundqvist doesn't dress in one of those games.
Also it should come as no surprise to see Duclair grouped with other top-tier guys. He looked strong in the Rangers scrimmage skating with Brassard and Nash, so why not give him another shot with those two players? Lindberg officially has the microscope on him, as he becomes a potential fill-in guy for when Stepan is out.
Vigneault provided some other nuggets of information. If there wasn't enough to like already about Martin St. Louis, the Rangers second-year head coach said St. Louis already volunteered to move into the middle if that's where the team needs him.
Vigneault said Marty St. Louis reached out to say he could play center if necessary. Vigneault not ready to go there yet, though.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) September 25, 2014
Don't expect St. Louis to play any center. There are better internal options, and considering the Rangers are going to need their top guns in top form to navigate the first month or so sans Stepan, there's no reason to get St. Louis out of sorts.
Another piece of information Vigneault revealed was that Kevin Hayes will get a look at right wing. Hayes exclusively played wing last year at Boston College, and even with the need down the middle the team has, slotting Hayes in on the right may be where he fits best.
In addition to trying Kevin Hayes at center, Vigneault says rookie will also get a look at right wing to ease transition to pros.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) September 25, 2014
Seeing those comments, one wondered if Hayes might be back in the lineup Friday against the Blackhawks (I mean, he wants a measure of revenge against the club that drafted him, right?) playing on the right side, but even with the roster cuts the Rangers recently made, Vigneault still needed every spot to work in the rest of the remaining players. Definitely expecting to see Hayes play a good deal next week with four games on the schedule. That stretch also wraps up the Rangers preseason schedule, meaning Vigneault and his staff need to work out those aforementioned questions over the next eight days.