Still There Are Questions...

The Rangers lost their pre-season finale 4-3 but did show some fight with 3 in the third. One of those was scored by Evgeny Grachev who admitted the first period was his worst ever. Despite a solid preseason there is just no room for the 19-year-old. There is for the other one though.

Michael Del Zotto has made the team. He's been solid and is only going to get better certainly with some growing pains. Expect to see a lot of him on the power play and possibly running it. Del Zotto is the first defenseman since Brian Leetch to play as a teen and the second youngest ever to play for the Rangers behind Dave Maloney.

Artem Anisimov capped his preseason with a third period goal against the Caps giving him the team lead of 4 goals and 2 assists. He also made the team but here's some questions:

1. Where will Anisimov play?
If Vinny Prospal is playing center than Anisimov will be on the fourth line where it's almost useless to have him. There is a better chance of him playing on the third line with Prospal sliding over to wing.

2. What are the lines? Here's a sample....

3. What happens when Sean Avery comes back?
The odd man out would seem to be Lisin. He's certainly not a fourth liner and you can't expect Tortorella to ask someone as invisible as Kotalik to go down there. Lisin has good speed, has played hungry and 3 preseason goals... he has much more of an upside than Kotalik but there is nowhere to put him.

4. What to do with Redden and Rozsival?
Let's hope they're pacing themselves until the opener... because hope is all there is with these guys.

5. Am I missing something with Prospal?
Everyone has been raving about Prospal's play so far and what a play maker he's been but I've seen no evidence of this. He's a pretty good player and he will contribute but is he more noticeable than Grachev? I didn't think so.

6. Sign Alexei Semenov?
He started strong but the more you see of him the slower he looks. Could give you options when/if Del Zotto heads back to Juniors and could be used now as a 6 or 7. Being that there has been no offer yet and his tryout expires tomorrow it seems the Sather may be waiting for a better option.

We'll see what transpires Friday night against Sid "The Winer"... it'll be great to see 8 minors in the first period.



Rumors are flying around about Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones. The word is he will be placed on waivers sometime this weekend and that the Blueshirts have interest. He is a solid 28-year-old defenseman who does have some offensive upside (31 points in 2007-08) but is another player coming off hip surgery. Early reports on him out of Flyer camp are not good, especially from him. “There is still a little bit of discomfort [there] but it’s not remotely close to last year,” Jones said. With Michal Rozsival and Marian Gaborik the Rangers have enough hip pains.

Jones is scheduled to make $2.75 million this year but if the Rangers claim him on re-entry they'd split that fee with the Flyers. If you can move Rozsival, you take a chance on Jones. If you can't... you don't.



Marian Gaborik is a scorer... he's a sniper.... he's a game-breaker. The Rangers have not had this type of player in their prime in a long time if ever. Jaromir Jagr was up there but played a completely different style of game. Jagr liked to control and dominate the puck, slowing the game down to his speed to make plays whereas Gaborik takes the puck and simply explodes.

Two games into his Ranger career he has 2 goals and 2 assists factoring into each goal in the Rangers 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals last night. The release of his short-handed breakaway goal in the second period rendered Jose Theodore almost motionless as the puck blasted through his legs. He added a top shelf rebound goal later in the period on a delayed penalty against the Caps.

Brandon Dubinsky played in his first game and looked solid. After swapping with Vaclav Prospal to center Gaborik and Christopher Higgins, he made the pivotal play in the third . Dubinsky took a Gaborik feed through center taking Matt Bradley wide before cutting to the net. Milan Jurcina hammered Dubinsky but not before he slid the puck to Higgins who popped it in for the winner with 1:10 to go.

Enver Lisin and Evgeny Grachev continued to play well but where do you put them when Avery comes back? Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto look the part. At least with Del Zotto the Rangers have 9 regular season games to decide whether he's the real deal or should head back to juniors. Aaron Voros looks great where he belongs which is the fourth line. However the fourth line is not where Artem Anisimov belongs and it's a waste to have him there.

Bobby Sanguinetti, who has been "a step behind" according to John Tortorella, was sent down to Hartford before the game.

The refs continued to embarrass themselves as Brandon Sugden dropped his gloves to fight Donald
Brasheer for the second time in the third. Brasheer didn't see this guy skating after him with no gloves on for about :05 seconds. Brasheer eventually obliged but somehow Sugden didn't get an instigator penalty... hysterical.


Comedy of Errors..

Watching Sportscenter this morning I couldn't help but notice the number 2 play was a Tyler Bozak play to the net that resulted in a Toronto goal. On the play Bozak drove and barreled over Pittsburgh goalie John Curry. The rebound was put in but I couldn't help laughing... remembering Avery's beautiful rebound goal that was WAVED OFF because he brushed against the goalie. But we must get used to it, particularly with Avery, as this is the worst officiated league in professional sports. Glad the refs got new uniforms this year though... expect plenty more laughs as a Ranger fan this season.


Hooks and Gabs...

Marion Gaborik made his much anticipated debut at MSG last night in a 4-2 Ranger win against Detroit. He came as advertised showing flashes explosiveness the Blueshirts haven't had in their line-up in a long, long time. On a first period power play, Gaborik took Brad Stuart on a tour all the way around the net and halfway up to the left point before feeding Enver Lisin in the slot to put the Rangers up 2-0 on the power play. He also got drilled by Johan Franzen :24 in which he said "woke me up a little bit". Gaborik admitted it'll take time to shake the rust off but the sore groin didn't appear to hinder him. Later Michael Del Zotto fed Gaborik beautifully through center and he would've been gone if not for losing the puck in his skates.

Lisin's first period PP goal added to his strong start. He and Artem Anisimov each have 3 goals in the preseason as Anisimov sealed the game with an empty netter. After a dismal opener Anisimov has all but locked up a roster spot since. Evgeny Grachev continues making himself tough to cut. He took Jakub Lindl into the boards, stealing the puck and setting up Ryan Callahan for a sick little backhand-forehand goal. Can't help but be excited about the Rangers youth on the back line as Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy and Bobby Sanguinetti all played well. Alexei Semenov is also looking more and more like he'll stick.

Sean Avery ran into Ryan Callahan in practice and is out indefinitely with a sprained knee. Aaron Voros subbed for him and was noticeable though I don't know where he'll fit in. He started last year strong before dropping off to near invisible level. With $3 million being wasted on him, Tyler Arnason, and Patrick Rissmiller,not sure how Glen Sather would justify having all of them in Hartford.


The Waiting is Over...

Brandon Dubinsky has ended his holdout. Steve Zipay of Newsday is reporting he's signed for 2 years at $3.7 million. He'll get $1.7 this year and 2 next. Dubinsky has shown nothing but grit and determination in his stay as a Blueshirt and will get better. He'll get the chance to center Marian Gaborik allowing Vinny Prospal to move back to the wing, instantly making the Rangers deeper up front.

Dubinsky was the first Ranger to miss camp since Mark Messier in 1994. Quite frankly he deserved more than the $522,500 the Rangers qualified him at being that he made $635,000 last season.

This is a huge move to solidify the Rangers forwards. Not sure what you do with Wade Redden or Michal Rozsival but moving one or both would be a dream come true... maybe trade them for a couple of pucks and maybe a stick.


Nothing But Questions...

The Rangers lost their third straight preseason game to the Red Wings tonight 4-3 in Detroit. Through 3 pre-season games nothing but questions surround this team. Has Glen Sather done enough? When will Brandon Dubinsky be back or will he? Is Marian Gaborik going to be seen soon? Can Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival rebound from horrendous years?

Good news... Redden had an assist on the Ranger's first goal tonight. That goal was scored by Artem Anisimov who needed to show something after a less than stellar first game against the Bruins. Enver Lisin continued his strong play with a goal. Henrik Lundqvist had another solid period and a half turning away 14 of 14 shots. And Marian Gaborik made the trip with the team and may suit up tomorrow in Boston.

Bad news... Redden still led the team with Rozsival at -2 despite being on the ice for the first Ranger goal. These two are supposed to be the elder statesmen of the Rangers defensive core and so far through 2 games they don't even deserve to make the team. Obviously neither are going anywhere which could make for a very long... very frustrating season for a Ranger fan. Anyone would rather see Michael del Zotto in Redden's role and deal with whatever mistakes he makes. At least he's young and has an upside... Redden is neither.

According to Larry Brooks of the NY Post, Brandon Dubinsky and his agent have lowered their demands and are now looking for $1.1 a year. That means he should be in camp right now, he's more than earned that amount. It also means Glen Sather hasn't and isn't doing enough. He's already wasted $3 million per on Tyler Arnason, Aaron Voros, and Patrick Rissmiller, 3 players who have no right making this team. Not signing Dubinsky for that amount would be completely incompetent.


Rangers-Devils Game Updates...

Struggling trying to get through the human computer "Doc" Emrick. Not sure what the allure of this guy is or what he's a doctor of. Played hockey all my life and never heard of anything in the game being "spiked" or "squibbed". He was super excited on the Devil's first goal but caught himself when he realized it's mid September.

Funny moment happened in a largely uneventful first. Sean Avery scored a beautiful rebound goal off an Enver Lisin shot. Lisin was the bright spot of the period shooting from everywhere. Avery made contact with Yann Danis though so the refs comically waved off the goal and called Avery for a double-minor. Dribing to the net and awarded with a goal, everything you're taught to do since birth. You can't do that in this league though. Good thing Adam Graves didn't play in
this time in THIS league. Also on the play Mike Mottau took a tomahawk swing into the side of Avery's head... no call. Officiating absolutely in mid-season form....

Aaron Voros had a fight and a couple of nice passes including one to Matt Gilroy who continued his stellar play with a beautiful third period breakaway move to the backhand. Gilroy also was the only Blueshirt to score in the shootout going five-hole.

Broadcasting needs work over there at "The Rock". Stan Fischler was borderline ready to fight Steve Cangialosi during the break and they just kept going at each other with "The Maven" eventually telling him to "get off my back!". Finally, Chico Resch referred to Marian Gaborik as "middle-aged" at the age of 27.

Definitions of squibbed from dictionary.com:
–verb (used with object)

to assail in squibs or lampoons.

to toss, shoot, or utilize as a squib.

---Makes sense "Doc"... thanks!!!


Here's tonight's roster:
Sean Avery-Vinny Prospal-P.A. Parenteau
Aaron Voros-Tyler Arnason-Enver Lisin
Evgeny Grachev-Brian Boyle-Ales Kotalik
Patrick Rissmiller-Matt Maccarone-Dan LaCouture

Wade Redden-Matt Gilroy
Michael Del Zotto-Michal Rozsival
Brent Henley-Corey Potter

Henrik Lundqvist/Chad Johnson

Looking forward to seeing Grachev and Lisin again. Would've like to see
Ilkka Heikkinen but he played for Hartford this afternoon. Henrik Lundqvist should play half th game and Sean Avery is reported to be in great shape. His training regimen was rigorous even prior to Tortorella's demands. Take a look here at what he was doing before he left the Rangers last year:


Brandon Dubinsky remains unsigned and the longer this goes the less of a chance he has to be a Ranger. He should take the $700,000 and prove himself this year... he'd get his money if he did that and it's silly to be holding out with no leverage.


Game Updates

Standouts tonight in the Rangers 2-1 loss to the Bruins were Gilroy, Grachev and del Zotto... Christopher Higgins parked in front of the net scored the lone goal on a rebound. We'll see who plays tomorrow but the Rangers clearly were the better conditioned team as they dominated the third.

A low light of the night was the fans booing Donald Brasheer the first time he touched the puck. People obviously are still angry with him about the late hit on Blair Betts last year in the playoffs that cracked Betts' orbital bone. Like it or not Brasheer is a Ranger and that hit arguably turned the series around for his team. He does whatever he needs to to win.

Boy I did so miss these refs who are in mid-season form. Rangers short-handed 4 times though none of the penalties were detectable in the first. Hard to say how they look as they were short-handed the whole period. Staal and Gilroy look good together and Michael del Zotto looked solid throwing a few good hits...

All Russian line of Artem Anismov centering Evgeny Grachev and Enver Lisin could be emplosive and they startes the game. Grachev drawing rave reviews in camp so far with a good chance to make the team....

Defensive pairs are:
Girardi-del Zotto

Boston Line-up....

Here are the players scheduled to suit up tonight:
Chris Higgins
Chris Drury
Ales Kotalik
Enver Lisin
Artem Anisimov
Ryan Callahan
P.A. Parenteau
Evgeny Grachev
Donald Brasheer
Dane Byers
Brian Boyle
Matt Maccarone

On defense:
Marc Staal-Dan Girardi
Matt Gilroy-Michael Sauer
Michael del Zotto-Alexei Semenov

We'll see who plays with who but I'm excited to see Anisimov, Grachev, Gilroy, and del Zotto... updates throughout the game...


Torts' Trials...

Camp Torts opened this weekend with some grueling aerobic tests but it's the Rangers fans who are trying to catch their breath.

First, there's unsigned restricted free agent Brandon Dubinsky. He's been with the team for weeks training and skating. Kurt Overhardt, Dubinsky's agent, flew in from Colorado last week in hopes of getting a deal done with Glen Sather. He's since left with no deal and Dubinsky has become the first Ranger to hold out of camp since Mark Messier in 1994. You know I'm not sure he's at that level just yet. Dubinsky said it's killing him not to be in camp but nonetheless, he's not. It seems John Tortorella is less than pleased about it. "It's stupid. He's a young man who needs to be in camp with his teammates and understand the process of becoming a pro. I'm hoping he realizes that." Torts also went on to call Dubinsky's agent "stupid". First camp of a coach who doesn't believe in excuses... yeah it might just be. The Rangers have offered Dubinsky $700,000 for this year and it's believed he wants twice that.

Next is Marian Gaborik. The explosive Slovakian winger who deemed himself fully healthy in the off-season after hip surgery and various groin problems over the years. He's apparently been skating hard at the Rangers training complex the last few weeks... which has left him sore... in the groin. He was held out of the first two days of camp. Everyone is saying it's precautionary but if you're a Ranger fan... you can't feel too great about it. If you're Glen Sather... even moreso. Sather took a chance and big dough on this guy being healthy. More as this progresses. The Rangers are supposed to have two scrimmages today and we'll see if Marian Gaborik is in them. The first pre-season game is tomorrow against Boston at MSG.


Get Ready For Hell... Dubinsky Burning?

Any hopes of this camp being fild with fireside stories and marshmallows will be smoked out first thing in the morning. Coach John Tortorella has been waiting for this camp to open since he took over for Tom Renney in late February last year. Camp opens with the emphasis squarely on conditioning... the players won't even touch a puck until the third day. The Rangers noticebly attacked more and dominated stretches of games under Tortorella but couldn't sustain it.

Vinny Prospal is the only one who's been through this camp calling it "the worst camp ever", as reported by Steve Zipay of Newsday. Prospal also addressed the clash he had with Tortorella that led to Prospal saying "in a way I hope to shove it up somebody's butt" in a post -game interview. He was angry after being benched and came back to score two goals in a come-from-behind win for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008. Prospal still thinks Tortorella always pushed the right buttons and got the best out of him.

Steve Zipay also is reporting that talks with Brandon Dubinsky's agent Kurt Overhardt and the Rangers over the last 2 days are going nowhere. Overhardt went on to say "expectations are not great" of the situation being resolved before camp opens on Saturday. If Dubinsky doesn't show up to the first Camp Torts... two words... not good. Two more more words... Phil Kessel. He's a name that was talked about on "The Beat" and could be the answer for the Rangers.


Power Surge...

It's no secret the Rangers power play was an unmitigated disaster the last couple of years. GM Glen Sather tried to address it last year by bringing in Wade Redden to quarterback it... Redden helped spearhead the team to almost dead last with the man advantage. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets were worse. Most fans would be pleased to never see Redden again. It's not all his fault but he will have to be better than his 2 PP goals and 6 PP assists last year. Due to his ridiculous contract, Redden is like a Snickers... he's not going anywhere for a while.

Sather is trying to address the situation again this year. He's picked up Ales Kotalik (9 PPG and 12 PPA) and Vinny Prospal (7 PPG and 8 PPA). Chris Drury led the Rangers last year with only 10 PPG and 10 PPA. Christopher Higgins will make a difference as well. He put up 25 power play points the year before last. Not to mention Marian Gaborik who when healthy can easily put up over 20 with the man advantage.

The Rangers scored 48 power play goals in 346 attempts while the Detroit Red Wings led the league with 90 in 353 opportunities.
They had nothing but perimeter players who would not go to the net or put shots there. Will the new players make a difference? Is Glen Sather done tinkering with the roster? Ales Kotalik has admitted Coach John Tortorella has already discussed the him manning the point on the power play with his rocket of a shot so changes are coming... and change is good.

The Rangers power play was their Achilles' heal and this game is about momentum. Not scoring and giving up a league leading 14 short handed goals against did nothing but sap whatever momentum the team had going. It got to the point you were almost hoping they wouldn't call penalties. The power play lost the series against the Washington Capitals. Sather has addressed one of the main weaknesses of the team bringing in some snipers who will shoot and put up numbers. Has he done enough? If the stats don't lie, the Rangers will advance beyond the first round of the playoffs this year... and the puck will get to the net.


The Marian Factor

Sather is no stranger to giving monstrous contracts to players who just can't live up to them. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury were two of the worst ever... until old Wade Redden got to town. Somehow Sather convinced Montreal to take Gomez and moved one of the most un-moveable contracts ever. Gomez (5 years left at $7.5 per) was immediately replaced "potential" superstar Marian Gaborik for the same terms. But why would we expect this signing to pan out being that Sather hasn't had one in 8 years as the GM?

Back, hip and groin problems have caused the 27-year-old
Gaborik to miss chunks of time through his first 8 seasons including missing all but 17 (he did have 23 points) last year. The Slovak has declared himself fully healthy for this season. Make no mistake, he is an explosive player with a wicked shot who can take over a game and carry his team. He is a leader who put up big numbers playing for a defensive club. He's everything you'd want and more... if he stays in the lineup.

The potential of seeing this missile playing John
Tortorella's up-tempo style is what has Ranger fans salivating. Gaborik is arguably the most gifted athlete to skate for the Rangers in the last 25 years and should put up 80-100 points... again... if he's healthy.

Gaborik needs to make a statement this year and you can sense he wants to. Will he explode to put up the best numbers of his career under the bright lights of Broadway? Can he blossom into the superstar everyone thinks he can be and emerge as the young leader of the New York Rangers? Can he play 82 games for the first time in his career?

He can... he will.... he must.