Kreider, Richards, Nash to debut on first line

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When the Rangers drop the puck on their 2013 preseason they'll likely do so with the trio of Chris Kreider, Brad Richards and Rick Nash matched against the New Jersey Devils' starting forwards

The three players skated Monday morning together during line rushes and will get the chance to forge some chemistry in the team's first exhibition game under Alain Vigneault.

This type of start to the season is a much different vantage point for Richards, who ended last season watching from the press box as a healthy scratch during the last two games of the Rangers' semifinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Given the Rangers' choice not to buy him out over the summer, Richards consider that a clear indication of what role the organization expects him to play moving forward.

"They kept me here, that's probably where I'm going to play, in some kind of role like that. I didn't expect to be kept here and sit upstairs," Richards said.

The 33-year-old alternate captain is embracing the fresh start and the opportunity to center two of the most skilled and dynamic wingers on the team.

"I'm smart enough to know my role on this team is to create offense and be that type of player," Richards said. "That's not going to change."

Richards is coming off a disheartening season in which his ice time and offensive role diminished precipitously toward the end of the year

He finished the lockout-shortened season with 11 goals and 34 points.

Kreider's spot on the top line's left wing is a bold vote of confidence from the Rangers as well.

Kreider was up and down with the big club last season but has had a strong showing early in training camp.

New coach Alain Vigneault has been impressed in the 22-year-old's speed and skill set; now he wants to put him in a role where he can set him up for success.

"The reality is he's one of the Rangers' high-end prospects. His size, his skill, we want to give him every opportunity to show what he can do," Vigneault said. "By putting him with Brad and Rick, we're sort of showing our hand a little bit here that [he's] getting a good opportunity, let's see what you can do."

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Defenseman Stu Bickel, who did not participate in Sunday’s scrimmage because of a back injury, is expected to play Monday.

Bickel skated with the group that will face the Devils Monday morning. If he is not available to play, the Rangers will use 21-year-old Dylan McIlrath in his place.