COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brendan Smith was prepared to confess that it was a shock that he was a wholesome scratch simply three video games into the season. However because the Rangers’ veteran defenseman ready to return to the lineup for Friday’s match towards the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Area, he was making an attempt to place his benching prior to now.
“I simply need to assist the group win and it’s irritating if you’re not within the lineup,” Smith stated after Thursday’s apply in Westchester, his workforce now 1-three-zero after he sat for the earlier two video games. “So it appears like I is perhaps again in, and I simply need to show myself.”
Coach Alain Vigneault is about to return to pairing Smith and Brady Skjei, a duo that was good down the stretch final season after Smith came to visit in a commerce simply earlier than the deadline. However, identical to the remainder of the staff, they struggled within the first interval of Saturday’s wild eight-5 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto, and Smith was primarily benched for the remainder of that recreation after which scratched for the subsequent two.
Requested if his benching was warranted, Smith smiled and struggled to reply diplomatically.
“Warranted? I don’t even know how one can reply that,” Smith stated. “Know what I feel? I feel I ought to have performed higher within the first interval. Ought to is a troublesome phrase. I feel I might have performed higher, and I feel the staff would have appreciated to play higher as a result of it might have put us in a greater place. I feel every part you do, there’s execs and cons, there’s penalties to every thing. Lots of occasions you will get knocked off the horse, you simply should get again on.”
Smith, 28, signed a 4-yr, $17.four million contract with the Rangers this summer time simply earlier than he might have reached free company. The annual $four.35 million wage-cap hit is the fourth-highest among the many defensemen.
“If I had a cheerful participant that’s sitting out, I’d query myself on that participant,” Vigneault stated. “I see him in our prime [four] defensemen, however he has to play accordingly. I really feel there’s undoubtedly room for enchancment on this case. And on the finish of the day, I’m positive that the is aware of that.”
Vigneault additionally juggled his strains round, however that didn’t embrace placing J.T. Miller again within the center — which was the plan throughout coaching camp. As an alternative, he put Miller on the best aspect with Jimmy Vesey and David Desharnais.
“I feel J.T. is simpler on the wing,” Vigneault stated. “I do know he likes the wing higher, he can get in there extra on the…