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Youthful Rangers focused on getting better after changes

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers have put last season’s struggles behind and are just focusing on trying to get better.

”Show up and compete every single day,” Kreider said Friday as players skated in groups for on-ice testing. ”We want to win games. It’s not a developmental league. Right now everyone is 0-0-0 across the board. It’s a clean slate for players, clean slate for teams.”

The Rangers are in a rebuilding mode after dealing several stars in a youth movement at the trade deadline last winter and then finishing 20 points out of a playoff spot while missing the postseason for the first time in eight years.

There’s also a new coaching staff with David Quinn making the jump from Boston University to the NHL as the head coach to lead a younger team with some veterans.

”You lose teammates every year, there’s always turnover,” Kreider said. ”At the same time I think there’s a good buzz around the group right now. I think everyone’s excited about the group that we have, about the coaching staff, about the players.”

Mika Zibanejad returned from his home in Sweden feeling energized after helping his country win the world championships in May. He credited that experience for fueling his summer workouts.

”Got to finish off the season in a better way, personally,” Zibanejad said. ”Got that win and I felt more motivated in the training. Now, I’m just coming back here and get excited again.”

Both Kreider and Zibanejad had positive things to say about their new coach. Kreider, who played at Boston College, said he nearly went to Boston University, and ”a big part of that was Coach Quinn.” Zibanejad was appreciative that Quinn traveled to Sweden during the summer to meet with him, goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast.

When Quinn met with reporters on Thursday, he stressed patience, as well as the importance of practicing hard.

”It’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said. ”Once we get on the ice I’ll have a clearer picture of what everybody is capable of doing, their strengths and weaknesses. … We want to be a fast, physical, relentless hockey team. You can’t play that way unless you practice that way.”

That will begin Saturday when the team breaks into three groups for daily practices.

Some other things to know as the Rangers open training camp:

BETWEEN THE PIPES: The 36-year-old Lundqvist is back for his 14th season after going 26-26-7 with a 2.98 goals-against average – the highest of his career. It was also just the second time he finished with fewer than 30 wins; the other was the lockout-shortened 2012-13, when he was 24-16-3.

”I think he’s in a great mindset,” Quinn said. ”He wants to be part of the next wave and win a Stanley Cup here. He’s in incredible shape, he’s an incredible competitor and he’s one of the best in the business.”

Alexandar Georgiev went 4-4-1 with a 3.15 GAA in 10 games down the stretch, and Marek Mazanec was signed after compiling a 8-13-4 mark with a 2.98 GAA in 31 career games for the Nashville Predators.

HEALTHY AGAIN: Zibanejad and Kreider are among several players who are healthy now after dealing with injuries last season. Zibanejad, who missed nearly two months witha broken left leg in the 2016-17 season, was out for about 10 games with a concussion last November. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 games before the injury, and finished the season with 20 goals and 27 assists.

Kreider missed two months after having a rib removed to help alleviate a blot clot in his right arm. He said he recently received ”a clean bill of health” after meeting with his pulmonologist to make sure he wasn’t predisposed to blood clots.

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is also healed after a knee injury in January ended his season.

LOGJAM ON DEFENSE?: Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and veteran Marc Staal are assured of their spots on defense. After that it could be an open competition.

Adam McQuaid, a nine-year veteran, was acquired from Boston earlier in the week. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound 31-year-old is similar in size to Rob O’Gara, who also came over from the Bruins last February. Fredrik Claesson was signed this summer, Tony DeAngelo is getting another look, and Neal Pionk had a goal and 13 assists in 28 games after making his NHL debut last season. Youngsters Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, and Joey Keane are also among others in camp.

CENTER DEPTH: Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes figure to be the top two centers again. Lias Anderson, 19, and Filip Chytil, who turns 20 next month, could key the youth movement. Both appeared in fewer than 10 games last season after being taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft.

Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov – both acquired in trade-deadline deals – are also centers on the roster, along with Boo Nieves. Peter Holland, Steven Fogarty and Gabriel Fontaine will also get looks.

Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

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