After two days of fitness testing and a long run at the Rangers’ Training Camp in Tarrytown, New York, the first two groups hit the ice for a scrimmage at 9 am this morning.
But before we get to the scrimmage, let’s talk a few preliminaries. Sixty three players are at camp, including all the players who participated in the tournament in Traverse City. But no veteran free agent players were invited this year. There are some open roster spots and as Head Coach John Tortorella said to the press yesterday, he would be disappointed if none of the young players in camp wound up with at least one of the spots.
What he also made clear was that players were going to be on the ice today vying for a spot in Wednesday’s exhibition game.
So with that, let’s get to the first scrimmage. The game itself was a little odd because it featured a 20-minute first and a 25-minute second period. Sixteen players were scheduled to be on the ice for each of the Red and Green teams. However, Marc Staal, who was supposed to take the ice for Green never appeared. The Rangers had no comment on the cause of his absence, however he will be on the ice practicing later this morning and is expected to talk to the media later in the day, so it probably is nothing to really be concerned about. More info on this later today (follow us on twitter #HFNYRangers to get updates on this and anything else going on at the training center today).
As for the scoring this morning, the line of Wojtek Wolski, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik looked exciting for the Red team, which won the scrimmage 4-2. Wolski had four points (including the first goal of the scrimmage), and Gaborik two goals. Richards was completely dominant on face offs–I did not see him lose one. The other goal for the Red team was potted by NHL roster hopeful Dale Weise, who broke in on Marty Biron (who played the whole game for Green) and beat him easily. For the Green team, John Mitchell scored two, one on Chad Johnson and one on Jason Missiaen (who shared the netminding duties for Red this morning).
What is not in the scoring is always as important here at HF, so let me put down a few thoughts.
First Gaborik looked tremendous this morning. He spoke a bit yesterday about his grief on losing friends this summer and how he hopes to move on by playing an inspired game. If this morning is any indication, he will be very exciting to watch.
Sean Avery was impressive out there today too. Not assured an NHL roster spot this year, he showed grit, good vision, his excellent release and good passing skills. With two assists today for Green, he was one of the best players on the ice for them.
Mats Zuccarello was also wearing green this morning, and although at first he looked very defensively vulnerable, he picked up his game as the first period moved along. By the second period, he was positioned better and began making some excellent plays. None of them resulted in goals (which sounds familiar), but he created chances.
Mike Rupp, who is very strong on the puck and reads the play very well, showed why the Rangers picked him up this summer as a free agent signing. He can bang and works well along the boards, as well as contribute to the offense too.
Pavel Valentenko was impressive on the left side, took one outstanding shot and looked comfortable for Green with Dan Girardi on his right.
On the other hand, Ryan Bourque, who I hoped would continue his play from Traverse City, was pretty ineffective this morning. It is not his last opportunity to show his stuff, but if he does not play better tomorrow, he is likely assured a spot in Connecticut.
And Michael Del Zotto, who had some very good moments when he made passes within the offensive zone, at others was still making dangerous passes across the ice into players’ skates on the breakout. It’s too soon to draw conclusions, but I was a little disappointed that he was still making some of the same errors that got him sent down last season.
Finally, JT Miller–in his first scrimmage here. He looked nervous at first and positionally weak, but he stepped up his game as the scrimmage went along, fighting for pucks along the boards. He still needs to get stronger, but Miller seems to be able to adjust to the increase in skill, which is a very good sign.
More this afternoon.