Rangers: 3 storylines to follow in the third preseason game

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) looks to pass against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Madison Square Garden
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will hit the ice tonight at 7:00 EST for their third preseason game of the year against the New Jersey Devils. Currently sitting at a record of 1-1, the Rangers are looking to extend their dominant play from their previous victory over the Islanders.

The Blueshirts are looking for redemption tonight, facing off against the team that eliminated them from the 2022-23 playoffs. The Devils are one of the best teams in the NHL and they possess one of the most skilled prospect pools as well.

It will take a strong effort from the Rangers, but another victory is certainly possible. Outside of simply winning, there are a few other keys to look out for in tonight’s matchup, too.

1. Lafreniere is back on the Rangers’ top line again

In what now seems to be a rotation for the Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere has replaced Kaapo Kakko on the Blueshirts’ first line tonight. Per Mollie Walker, Lafreniere will once again play with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, while Kakko will play on the second line with prospect Will Cuylle and veteran Jonny Brodzinski.

One emerging storyline throughout this year’s preseason is which of the kids will earn the right to play on the Rangers’ top line. Whoever falls to the second will still receive increased ice time and opportunities, but to witness Lafreniere and Kakko compete for the spot has been an entertaining arc.

Kakko was initially the favorite to land the role, but Lafreniere has made a solid case for himself thus far as he transitions over to the right wing. Head coach Peter Laviolette had some words to share about how the former first-overall pick has performed on the right side so far.

“Really responsive, really easy to talk to, really easy to coach. He seems like he’s really excited to get an opportunity. That line is in place for a reason tonight, to take a look at it.”

Peter Laviolette via Vince Z. Mercogliano

2. Laviolette is testing a new defensive pairing tonight

It has been known that Laviolette wants to experiment with some of the Rangers’ defensive pairings throughout the preseason, but one of the key pairs will finally be put to the test tonight. Adam Fox has been the backbone of the Rangers’ defense for practically his entire career, playing with Ryan Lindgren for years. However, Fox will experiment with a new partner tonight.

K’Andre Miller will hit the ice with Fox tonight as the Rangers’ top defensive pairing. This new line has a lot of potential, with both players being strong offensive-minded defensemen. Fox finished the 2022-23 season with 72 points, and Miller concluded a breakout campaign with 43 points in 79 games.

At just 23 years old, Miller has the potential to continue his growth and explode for an even higher point total this season. Playing alongside a Norris-caliber superstar like Fox would help propel that further breakout, and the duo would become an unstoppable offensive force.

Lindgren and Fox have undeniable chemistry and work extremely well together, but it will be interesting to see how this new pairing performs in their first experimental game together.

3. Cuylle must play well with hopes of earning a Rangers roster spot

Of all the prospects remaining with the Rangers, Will Cuylle currently has the best odds to make it to the NHL. He’ll be playing with Brodzinski and Kakko on the second line tonight against New Jersey, indicating that he’ll be. receiving a high amount of playing time with some of the better players hitting the ice.

Although Cuylle has performed well so far throughout training camp and preseason, he still has a long way to go if he wants the chance to make the Rangers’ roster this season. The opportunity tonight to play on the Blueshirts’ second line should not be taken lightly, and Cuylle must make the most of it.

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