Libor Hajek

Day 2 – Team C Wins Scrimmage

The second day of training camp is in the books, and the Rangers continue to conduct a scrimmage in the morning, followed by on-ice work later in the day.  Today’s fixture featured Team A, with the Zibanejad line, against Team C and the Kid Line.

As with yesterday’s match-up with Team A and B, today’s scrimmage was a close one, heading to Overtime at 2-2 before Braden Schneider put a shot in off the cross bar to win it for his team.  The other goals today went to 18 year old Sam Alfano, and Will Cuylle for Team C, and to Jayden Grubbe and Chris Kreider (on the breakaway) for Team A.

The Kid line impressed observers in the scrimmage, generating offense on many of their shifts, though none of the three managed to score in the game.

Igor Shesterkin gave up both regulation time goals for Team A, while Louis Domingue allowed one to Grubbe, and Talyn Boyko the breakaway to Kreider.

In his second practice since coming back from last year’s ACL, Sammy Blais reported looked energized and continues to show no ill effects of the injury.  As noted yesterday, Blais is getting first shot at playing on the top line with Kreider and Zibanejad.

The scrimmage also saw the pairing of Libor Hajek and Braden Schneider going up against Zac Jones and Andy Welinski in what could be the early going of a battle between the two left shot defensemen for the final starting spot on the roster.  It’ll likely be a few games into the preseason before we get a sense of whether Hajek can hold onto the spot, or whether Jones (or Matthew Robertson) will be able to jump ahead.

One other thing to keep an eye on, with Kreider taking left side faceoffs in the offensive zone instead of Zibanejad.  Kreider has been used sparingly in the faceoff circle throughout his career (523 in 654 career games), but a vast majority have been in the Offensive Zone.  He hasn’t been typically very effective, with just a 41.1% win in that zone, and 43.8% overall, but given that he largely is used when the first option gets tossed, then perhaps his success rate is a bit low as he looks to avoid taking a penalty for consecutive toss-outs from the faceoff dot.

Another topic of consideration today was around the penalty killing units, particularly at forward.  With the departures of Kevin RooneyTyler MotteRyan StromeAndrew Copp and Greg McKegg, the Rangers lost some of their penalty killing depth and will be looking to find some further options down the roster.

While Vincent Trochek will likely be used in one of the top two units, it’ll come down to guys like Ryan Carpenter as well as perhaps one of the young guys – think Kaapo Kakko, as another.  Alexis Lafreniere too saw some time in last year’s preseason, and could get another look, as could a handful of other forwards.  Jimmy Vesey too could win himself a contract by contributing in that aspect of the game as well.

Speaking of Trochek, one of the areas he does potentially help, is adding a bit more speed to the second line.  The former Panther and Hurricane, was selected by the Rangers as a better overall player than Strome, though his passing is considered a little less effective than his predecessor.

Couple of other interesting points of note.  It sounds like the starting configuration for the fourth line might be Goodrow – Carpenter – Reaves.  Goodrow was a given, and Carpenter brings PK and Faceoff ability, as well as a solid defensive game to the fourth line, so has probably been the favorite for the Center role since he joined.  There has been some question about Reaves and his ability to contribute on a regular basis, and perhaps this year we’ll see him switched out a bit more than we saw last year.

And while many of speculated that Zac Jones would be the favorite for the last defensive spot, it appears that at least for now, the guy in first position may actually be Libor Hajek.  As we found out yesterday, Hajek got the first look at playing with Braden Schneider, whereas Jones paired up with AHLer Andy Welinski.  Gallant provided a bit more today after practice, that makes it sound like this might be Hajek’s job to lose.

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