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Nuggets From Practice: Lines, Fast's New Number and Nickname

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Here's two ways to know that opening night is nearly at hand for the Rangers: walk around the MSG Training Center and you now see fewer Rangers players following Sunday's roster cutdown, and you also see more Knicks players at the facility now that their training camp has commenced. Kind of funny, but when you see that many Knicks here at the MSG Training Center, you just know that the first puck is dropping on a new season very soon for the athletes on the other side of the building.

Of course the more sure sign is that Alain Vigneault and his staff now have 24 players to coach, and out on the ice everyone is going about their business with just a touch more purpose. On Tuesday, following a day off, that meant an hour and a quarter of drills, getting line combinations and defense pairings in place, special teams practice, and conditioning work.

"I believe this is going to be a constant progression," Vigneault said of his first season with the Rangers. "Every day we will look to get better as individuals and as a group. Every day, I think, we will continue to improve. That's what I expect." 

Vigneault said that he has started to break down film of the Coyotes, the Rangers' opponent in the regular season opener on Thursday, but is aware that he needs to get his club together and ready first. Since Derek Stepan missed the entire pre-season, and the lineup was juggled on a nightly basis throughout the pre-season so that the coaches could evaluate all of the players in camp, Vigneault is only now settling into who will play with whom. As he alluded to, this will be a real work in progress to start the season---especially with Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin both not cleared to play in games just yet.

Here's a look at the line combinations and defense pairings used by Vigneault during Tuesday's practice, a strong indication of how he will start the season in Phoenix.

Richards-Stepan-Nash

Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello

Pyatt-Boyle-Fast

Miller-D. Moore-Dorsett

Extras: Asham, Callahan, Hagelin

McDonagh-Girardi

Staal-Del Zotto

J. Moore-Stralman

Extra: Falk

When asked about Brad Richards being switched to left wing from center, Vigneault made it clear who made the decision.

"(Brad) probably prefers to play the middle, but he's going to play the wing," stated the head coach. "We have three centermen in Stepan, Brassard and Richards who all deserve to play in our Top Six, so somebody has to go on the wing. I know Brad has played on the wing before, and I don;t think he is uncomfortable there."

For his part, Stepan is excited about the prospects of playing on a line with those two gifted veterans.

"My job is going to be real easy," Stepan said with a big grin on Tuesday. "I am going to look for No. 61 and No. 19, and make sure I get them the puck!"

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After wearing No. 31 during training camp---"That's a goalie's number" joked Anton Stralman---rookie Jesper Fast has been given uniform No. 12. Fast saw No. 12 on his locker nameplate Sunday, but was not sure then what number he was being assigned. However on Tuesday he had the No. 12 on his helmet, though he was still more excited about having made the opening night roster than what number he would be wearing.

"I am still smiling because this is such good news," the likeable Swede said Tuesday after practice. "My family can not believe it! They are so happy back home."

Vigneault has taken to referring to Fast as "Quickie" because he was having problems getting the name Jesper (pronounced Yes-per) right during games

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Now that the final roster is set many of the players have switched lockers from where they were last season---or at least during training camp. As you walk into the dressing room at the MSG Training Center all of the defensemen are now lockering to the immediate right side of the room, with Dan Girardi and John Moore holding on to their old stalls and everyone else having moved from various other areas of the room. 

"They moved me to add some personality to this side of the room," joked Michael Del Zotto, who now sits next to Girardi.

The goalies remain dead straight ahead in the middle of the stalls, with the forwards spread out to cover the rest of the room. Rookie Jesper Fast has the stall in the far left corner where everyone must pass by en-route the shower area. Among those who completely switched sides of the room are J.T. Miller and Arron Asham, while Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and Ryan Callahan are among those who still maintain the same spot in the room.

Oct 1 - 7:21pm
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