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As training camp opens, the Rangers’ defense goes under the microscope

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Ryan McDonagh #27 and Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers line up for the national anthem prior to a game against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

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Keith Yandle logged almost 20 minutes per game for the New York Rangers last season, and nobody played more on the power play.

Dan Boyle also played significant minutes, and he was second to Yandle in terms of power-play time.

So with Yandle and Boyle both gone now, it leaves the obvious question -- how are they going to be replaced?

“Obviously, there’s ice time available,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, who “figured” he’d be asked about the blue line when he met Thursday with reporters.

“There’s roles available, as far as both Keith and Dan were a little bit more offensive oriented. So there’s opportunity there. There’s opportunity for a veteran guy like Ryan McDonagh to take a little bit more, to a younger guy like Brady Skjei to take a little bit more.”

Vigneault mentioned young Dylan McIlrath as another candidate to play more. The Rangers also signed offensive defenseman Adam Clendening and traded for Nick Holden in the offseason. Veterans Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Kevin Klein are still with the club as well.

How the defense performs could largely determine how the Rangers do as a team. The forward group has plenty of skill, speed and youth, and of course there’s Henrik Lundqvist in net.

“We still believe that we’re a very strong hockey team,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“I see good speed, which is something that I like. As you guys know, I like to play a fast, high-tempo game, and we’d like to continue that. And that’s why we’ve got training camp here, to get everyone on the same page.”

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