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Rangers to experiment with St. Louis at center

Tampa Bay Lighting v Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 28: Martin St. Louis #26 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre January 28, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)


With Derek Stepan’s injury making an already weaker-at-center New York Rangers team that much more vulnerable down the middle, head coach Alain Vigneault is experimenting with Martin St. Louis as a pivot for at least a preseason game or two.

“He says other than the faceoffs he’s pretty comfortable,” Vigneault told Blueshirts United. “I know he’s done it before, so if we need him I know he’ll be ready for us.”

While many associate the 39-year-old with his All-Star work at right wing, it’s true that he’s received the occasional bit of work at center (there’s some visual evidence of him taking a draw in his Lightning days in the main image). It’s also true that he’s struggled at winning draws, which shouldn’t be that shocking being that faceoff victories tend to come down to some combination of frequently practiced techniques and sheer leverage stemming from size and strength.

It’s easy to overrate the impact of faceoffs, however, as there are some reasons why the St. Louis center experiment could be wise. He’s an experienced forward, so one would at least think that positioning and responsible play would be major hurdles. Most enticingly, centers often get the puck more often, and magic tends to happen when this under-sized player has the biscuit.

Granted, it’s most important to note that preseason experiments frequently fizzle out. Even if the Rangers extend this bit of experimentation into the 2014-15 season, he could very well go back to the wing once Stepan returns or the team feels more convinced about other options.

Still, it’s one of those intriguing situations that makes these exhibitions mean more than pretty highlights and roster spot battles for up-and-comers.

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins