Day one of the Rangers’ Phase 3 “Return to Play” began today at 11 a.m., when 32 of the 33 players on the “Phase 3 Training Camp Roster” took the ice (Michael Haley is on the roster but is currently on injured reserve). Nineteen forwards, 10 defensemen, and four netminders are on the roster. Of those, one, the former first rounder K’Andre Miller, will be playing with the team during Phase 3 but will not be traveling on to Toronto with the Rangers for Phase 4. According to the New York Rangers’ President John Davidson, Miller’s inclusion in the roster and on the ice was a late decision after the NHL determined that it would allow one player on each roster to play in this training camp-like Phase, but not be eligible to play in the qualifying series. JD raved about Miller saying that he “is a perfect fit for us [and] it is an ideal time to get him here.”
Miller joins the other nine D, which includes Brendan Smith. According to Head Coach David Quinn, who actually rejected the notion of calling this a training camp, saying “we are picking up where we left off. . . . I look at it as our third season,” Smith will be a defenseman in the qualifier and post-season (absent the loss of forwards). Quinn expressed his happiness with the 13 forwards he had on the ice today and did not foresee using Smith up front.
There were questions galore in the close to 1 ½ Zoom presser after the practice—mostly about the goalie battles, Mika Zibanejad’s development during the regular season, and about the effect of Brendan Lemieux’s suspension.
As respects Lemieux, as of this afternoon, the team had not heard whether or not he will be allowed to play in the qualifying round. He was on the ice this morning, taking regular shifts. As for Mika, who was on a tear before the season was suspended, he said that he felt like a took a big step forward this season, a feeling that was echoed by JD. The team President said of Mika, “he can do anything. [It was] amazing how well he was playing.” JD confidently added that he feels that Mika has not hit his ceiling yet.
The three goalie situation was discussed at length during the Zoom conference. JD led off with the fact that the goaltending decision would be made by the coaching staff for game one. Head Coach Quinn admitted that there was a lot that is going into the goaltending decision. He sees this “camp” as part of the decision, and that “the next three weeks will be critical for the goalies.” However, he made clear that the coaching staff will put stock in the regular season too.
Henrik Lundqvist weighed in on the goaltending situation too. He says that while hockey was suspended, he took the time to work on work on his game—mentally, technically, and physically. He reiterated that he can only control those three parts of his game; he cannot control the coaching staffs’ decisions. He reviewed some of the issues he had this season and stressed that what he (and any goalie) has to bring is consistency. Lundqvist stressed several times how he loves the game and told us that he really enjoys training.
All four of the Rangers who spoke to us were confident that the Rangers had the ability to go far into the playoffs this year. Quinn talked about how dialed in mentally the Rangers were when play was suspended and his belief that they can regain that in the next few weeks (“games will be won and lost between now and August first”). JD felt that the play today was very sharp and that he expected an exciting series with Carolina. Mika expressed that, “we are not here just to participate, we are here to win.” And Henrik made it clear that there should be no limits to what the Rangers think they could accomplish. Again, no limits.