Maybe Lias Andersson isn’t getting as big a role as he might have hoped, but the 20-year-old center the Rangers took with the No. 7-overall pick in 2017 is still happy to be contributing at the NHL level through the team’s first two games of the regular season.
“You always want to be up here, playing on one of the four lines and getting regular ice time,” Andersson said after Tuesday’s practice, after splitting last season between the Rangers and AHL Hartford. “I’m just going to keep going and try to help the team win. When the coach wants me out there, I’ll jump out right away.”
Andersson has averaged 9:25 of ice time per game, the least of any player. But that has included an average of 2:18 on the penalty kill, where his tandem with Mika Zibanejad has been the first to go for coach David Quinn. The club is 9-for-10 on the penalty kill thus far, and has scored a shorthanded goal in each of its first two games for the first time in franchise history.
“Lias played well [Saturday] night, and it is just two games,” Quinn said. “I think he’s going to continue to earn more ice and get more ice time. That being said, we feel comfortable with our lineup right now and our four lines.
“He’s done a good job killing penalties, so it’s going to be game-to-game.”
Nick Ebert was set to report to AHL Hartford after the 25-year-old defenseman from Livingston, N.J., came along with a fourth-round pick in the trade that sent Vladislav Namestnikov to the Senators on Monday. Ebert had only played one game for Ottawa’s minor league affiliate this season after spending last season in the Swedish League.
“We’ll get him acclimated to the Rangers and Hartford and see how he does,” general manager Jeff Gorton said. “Hopefully he plays well, puts a little pressure on us to take notice, and hopefully he’ll fit in up here eventually.”
The Rangers signed second-round pick Matthew Robertson to his entry-level contract. The 6-foot-4 defenseman, taken No. 49 overall, was impressive in preseason, but tweaked his groin before going back to his junior club in the WHL. It’s possible once that season ends, Robertson could come for a cup of coffee with the Blueshirts — nine games or less, so as not to burn a year of his contract.
With no game until Saturday, the Rangers are keeping the roster at 21 players, with no imminent call-up needed. Greg McKegg will likely slide into a fourth-line winger role after he had been scratched for the first two games.
The other extra forward, Micheal Haley, missed Tuesday’s practice while having a wisdom tooth extracted.