Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/25/13
The NHL’s presentation of Trading Places: Behind the Benches debuts Thursday night with Alain Vigneault’s Rangers hooking up with John Tortorella’s Canucks. But while this unique matchup will attract a disproportionate amount of attention across the continent the Blueshirts have way too much unfinished business to complete in this preseason to be concerned with proving a point to anyone on the other side. And Vigneault has way too many decisions remaining to be concerned with the guys wearing the home uniform whom he coached the previous seven years. The fact of the matter is the Rangers have looked pretty lousy going 1-3 through their first four exhibition matches. They’ve been at least as disjointed as one would expect operating under this senseless training camp schedule filled with travel and back-to-back games the final set of which concludes with a match in Las Vegas against the Kings on Friday. The impasse with Derek Stepan is reaching the point of danger. Already without Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin for at least the first few weeks of the season the Blueshirts could open without what in essence was last year’s first line and without readily identifiable candidates to replace their combined contribution of 44 goals and 55 assists. Beyond that Callahan and Stepan formed the Rangers’ top penalty-kill unit last season while Hagelin — who returned to New York on Wednesday to continue his rehab rather than remain with the club for the remainder of the trip — was sixth in shorthanded ice time among forwards. The Blueshirts need more from Brad Richards and Rick Nash who have seemed as out of sorts as a pair in two preseason matches as they did most of last year. Chris Kreider needs to show more in order to lock down a roster spot though the winger was more involved on a line with J.T. Miller and Aaron Asham in Edmonton on Tuesday than he had been in two previous matches skating with Richards and Nash. There were nine cuts on Wednesday — Danny Kristo whom the Rangers believed over the summer would have a legitimate shot at starting the season as a top-six forward was the most notable casualty—but the tough decisions lay ahead for Vigneault general manager Glen Sather and the front office before the opening roster is submitted to the NHL at 3 p.m. Monday.
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