Most of the preseason intrigue with the Rangers who were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the playoffs last spring, involves seeing whether younger players can grab lower-line roles on offense and sixth or seventh spots on defense.
If a younger corps of forwards such as Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider can prosper in expanded roles will be determined not in the six exhibition games but during the regular season, which begins Oct. 5.
Some key issues as the Rangers open training camp:
1. Who will center the third and fourth lines?
At this point, it’s fair to wonder if general manager Jeff Gorton should have sent a draft pick to Las Vegas to protect Oscar Lindberg from the expansion draft. Zibanajad and Hayes are moving up to the No. 1 and 2 slots, but the third-line pivot is to be determined. David Desharnais, a free agent who played for the Canadiens, appears to be the frontrunner — unless Miller moves over from the wing and Desharnais drops down to the fourth spot, where he may be better suited. Otherwise, Cristoval Nieves and No. 7 overall pick Lias Andersson are the main competitors for the final spot.
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