It’s pretty easy to assume that today’s affair at Madison Square Garden was more relaxed for the New York Rangers compared to the last time they graced the ice at 33rd Street.
However, even though this was preseason game No. 1, the intensity and choppiness was obviously there.
The final score – which saw the Devils core in the last minute for a 5-4 win – didn’t matter. However, there was some fighting for spots on this roster and even others trying to give it one last go.
Here’s looking at you Ryan Malone.
“It was his first game in a long time,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “He did a good job on the power play. Most guys played 10-12 minutes and he played 15-16. For the first game, it was a step in the right direction, but we are still evaluating him.”
The former Penguins and Lightning forward is looking to make the team after being bought by Tampa Bay over the summer.
After one game: so far, so good. A goal midway through the first allowed the Rangers to tie the game at two. He looked energetic and ready to regain the form that saw him score 27 goals in 2007-08 and 26 in 2008-09.
However, injuries curtailed the 34 year-old over the last two years leading to the amnesty buyout. And an arrest for DUI and cocaine possession last year did not help either.
But those days seems to be behind him.
“It’s been a while since I played, so it’s nice to get out there, hit the body around, get hit, and get a little more feel out there. So it was definitely a pretty good first game,” Malone said.
Moreover, the Rangers need a healthy Malone this year to make up for the loss of Brad Richards – the Blueshirt’s compliance buyout – and hopefully he will jell with other bottom six forwards to former another solid third line on the team.
And tonight he played with JT Miller, who the Rangers want to step up and center the third line. Miller fed Malone on a nice pass to make it 2-0.
“I was kind of licking my chops, and hoping he saw me over there,” Malone said. “He did a great job. I thought he played really well tonight on both ends creating plays. He had a big block out there too on the second. There was that Pittsburgh connection out there.”
Of course, in Pittsburgh, Malone had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin centering him, but if Miller can take the next step, then maybe Vigneault will have an answer for the third line this season after last year’s trio of Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot, and Mats Zuccarello made music together the second half of the year.
Much like Pouliot, Malone comes in with questions that he hopes the Rangers can answer, because if he does then the Glen Sather may have found himself another gem.
With the way Vigneault likes to roll four lines, they certainly will need it.