New York Ranger kids Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist paired up

January 2, 2022; New York, New York, United States; New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) skates with the puck during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden 4-0 on Sunday. It was an impressive win considering the reigning champions were almost on their full roster and the Blueshirts were going without Artemi Panarin, Ryan Lindgren and Kevin Rooney due to COVID protocols.

However, it was another defensive move that grabbed attention today. Patrik Nemeth was wiped out in what Gallant called a “personal issue” giving 21-year-old rookie Zac Jones a chance to play.

Zac Jones debuts for Rangers

Jones, the team’s third-round pick (68th overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft, made his season debut. A regular at the big show, he made his NHL debut at the end of last season and collected 4 assists in 10 games.

The heady defender made a few comparisons to Adam Fox’s style of play. Not a physically imposing rearguard, he makes up for it with his high hockey IQ and excellent positioning. Jones is also a solid skater and makes a good pass out.

He was added to the Taxi team after outscoring all Wolf Pack defenders with 17 points in 21 games.

In today’s competition, Jones performed extremely well. He finished the contest with 13:32 YOU and a score of +1.

If any of you are surprised at his performance, you shouldn’t be, he was one of the last players kicked out of training camp. When he was sent to Hartford, Jones made it clear where he thought his game was.

“I think I deserve to play in the NHL,” said Jones. “If I’m fired I’m not going to complain… I’m going to go out there and work as hard as I can to get back into the NHL.

After today’s presentation, it won’t be easy for Gallant to sit him down tomorrow against the Oilers if Nemeth is available.

Gallant happy with the children

nils lundkvist
Dec 3 2021; New York, New York, United States; New York Rangers defenseman Nils Lundkvist (27) plays the puck against the San Jose Sharks in the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Playing Jones was one thing, but pairing him up with fellow rookie Nils Lundkvist is another. Gérard Gallant used common sense in having the children play together.

“They were really good. They moved the puck well, ”said Gallant of the rookie defensive duo. “You try to get the games you want, but they were sometimes against the front row (of Tampa) and did really well. They didn’t show any lack of confidence and that’s important.

“It was good to see the kids progress,” added Gallant.

“They are two very good players. They know how to play hockey, they have done it a lot.

Adam fox

Solid Ludkvist and Jones

Lundkvist and Jones showed the chemistry right off the bat. Early in the first period, Brayden Point made a world-class move on Jones to pass him for a breakaway. Recognizing the disadvantage, Lundkvist skated towards Point to remove the middle and force a corner shot that became wide.

That was about the only mistake Jones made – if you consider that a superstar like Point is pretending to make a mistake. Remember, it was Artemi Panarin who fired a shot at potential Norris candidate Aaron Ekblad in Florida that led straight to a goal.

Despite this play, Gallant trusted the kid by giving him regular shifts. It’s also not surprising with the way the coach spoke about him after cutting him before the season.

“He’s a young player, we like him a lot and he will be in New York a lot,” he said. “But with the depth we have on the blue line, we have to make some tough decisions and it was a tough one.”

Another strong performance from Jones and Lundkvist against Edmonton will only make matters worse.

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