Tom Renney had said he was going to mix things up with his line combinations at some point during training camp. Today he delivered on his promise.
Among the combinations this morning was Chris Drury between Ryan Callahan and Petr Prucha, and Sean Avery between Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahan. More glaring was the afternoon group of Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez with Nigel Dawes at left wing, while Marcel Hossa was bumped down to play with Blair Betts and Colton Orr.
I should offer the standard disclaimer about any of these combinations, which is that if they don’t mean much during a regular season practice, they mean even less during a training camp scrimmage.
That said, the insertion of the 22-year-old Dawes next to Gomez and Jagr is telling. The book on Dawes, who had 60 points for Hartford last year, is if he is going to succeed in the NHL, he has to be playing alongside skilled players. The Rangers got a glimpse of the alternative to start last season, when Dawes was playing mostly third line minutes alongside the likes of Jason Ward and Blair Betts. For that reason alone, he didn’t last long.
A year later, outside of the desperate insertion of Dawes into the Game 6 lineup against the Sabres (playing with Shanahan and Avery, Dawes was great in the offensive zone but less impressive at the other end), the prospect got another chance yesterday, and he was brilliant. Along with scoring a goal of his own, he set up another by Jagr, and was even effective in digging pucks out of the corner.
As Renney cracked, you could have put him next to Jagr and Gomez and he would have had a few scoring opportunities. But he also made a point of saying Dawes has been impressive in camp so far, and that he may have aided his cause today.
Does Dawes have a chance at a job? It’s a fair question, and while it’s still ridiculously early in camp, I suppose a lot will depend on what the Rangers do with that third line center job. If they do in fact end up using someone like Ryan Callahan or Martin Straka at center, then there may be another opportunity for a wing such as Dawes. But if the center job is filled by someone new like Brandon Dubinsky, Dawes would seem to be the odd man out. Like I said earlier, a fourth line job is a waste of his time.
In other news:
Of course, that could mean nothing. But it’s worth noting.