Update, 1:50 p.m.: OK, apologies on the delay but there was a lot of waiting around for players while they attended a “Doping Control Seminar”. I’m pretty sure that has to do with blood doping, and not tips on how to deal with various dopes on your team (or in the media).
But we finally had a chance to speak to Nikolai Zherdev; and to Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund, and Tom Renney about Zherdev. I’ll have more on this later, but it’s safe to say the team is hoping for a breakout year from the 23-year-old wing. Even Zherdev said he’s looking for bigger things in his first season in New York.
“Last year I scored 26 goals. Maybe this year there’s more goals because there are good forwards and a good center here,” Zherdev said. “I’ll try to score more goals and win the Stanley Cup.”
As for the hit from Byers, Zherdev is fine. It was called as a penalty in the scrimmage, but I’d call it a questionable one at that.
“It’s OK,” Zherdev said, who only had a slight scratch on his face as a result. “It’s hockey.”
Some other updates:
<li>Tom Renney on his hopes for the fourth line this year: “I’d like to see more production. What we got out of that line is real, good solid play. They were able to shut down some very good lines this league. But I’d like to see more production.”
<li>One snafu I never thought of until today: The Rangers will play six exhibition games in North America in NHL rinks, and will play their two games in Prague in an NHL-sized rink. In between, though, are two games in Switzerland in a 200-by-100 Olympic rink. Renney admitted it’s not the ideal preparation for the regular season.
<li>On whole, the Rangers came into camp in better shape than expected. The average score from yesterday’s tests — which measured strength, explosive power, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness — were the highest conditioning coach Reg Grant had seen in his seven years in New York. The team no longer gives an award to the player who tests the best, but Renney singled out Petr Prucha as someone who tested extremely well.
<li>Michal Rozsival refused to divulge what number he’ll wear this season. “It’s a secret,” Rozsival said. “It’s actually the last two digits of my social security number.”
“What about 68?” someone suggested.
“No,” Rozsival said. “Too much pressure.”
Rozsival, by the way, already has some 30 friends and family coming to the Prague games, but is now having to turn people away for tickets.
<li>Individual tickets for games this season go on sale on Saturday. Here’s the release:
New York, September 17, 2008 â€“ The New York Rangers announced today that tickets for the 2008-09 Rangers season home games will go on-sale on Saturday, September 20 beginning at 12:00 p.m. on Ticketmaster via newyorkrangers.com, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone, (212) 307-7171, (201) 507-8900, (631) 888-9000, (845) 454-3388, (609) 520-8383 and Ticketmaster outlets.
Tickets are limited. Fans will be limited to a maximum of four (4) tickets per game. Due to high season subscription renewals for the upcoming season, there will be extremely limited individual tickets available for “Adam Graves Night” on February 3rd vs. the Atlanta Thrashers.
Update, 12:05 p.m.: On-ice workouts are done. I’ll check in after some interviews.
Update, 11 a.m.: Uh, I guess Zherdev is OK, because he went on to score his first highlight-worthy goal in a Rangers uniform (fine, practice Rangers uniform). The wing carried the puck through center ice, dumped it to Markus Naslund before taking a pass back from Gomez and wristing a shot in from the right side.
Chris Drury and Patrick Rissmiller also scored good-looking goals for white.
Tough day for Hugh Jessiman, who was hit hard first by Thomas Pock, then taken off the ice after getting in the nose by Colton Orr.
Altogether, pretty high intensity for mid-September.
Update, 10:26 a.m.: The first “yikes” moment of training camp comes when Dane Byers comes up high with a shoulder on Zherdev. Zherdev is helped off the ice, and misses the next shift (where he’s replaced by Lauri Korpikoski), but eventually returns and actually gets a decent shot on goal.
Through the first period of the scrimmage, each side has a goal on a penalty shot (blue by Ryan Hillier and white by Petr Prucha), but the play is a tad sloppy. I continue to be impressed by Callahan and Dubinsky, who controlled the puck well in the offensive zone.
Not to be forgotten is Petr Nedved, who set up Patrick Rissmiller in front, but Rissmiller fanned on the shot.
Update, 9:46 a.m.: The Blue practice is over. On some rush drills, it’s clear that the Zherdev-Gomez-Naslund is going to fluster teams with their speed. But connecting on scoring chances is another story. At one point Gomez rushed into the zone, left a drop pass for Zherdev, but the wing couldn’t get a shot off in time.
More impressive actually was Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan on an energy third line. Dan Fritsche was on the left wing, although I don’t envision him staying there.
The actual scrimmage in a few minutes will be more telling.
Still no news on Brendan Shanahan, who isn’t here…
Michal Rozsival doesn’t care who Harry Howell is. He’s still wearing No. 3 in practice. That’s obviously going to change at some point…
Earlier: So here’s my story on “the Rangers’ expectations heading into training camp”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080917/SPORTS01/809170390/-1/SPORTS. Some still aren’t shy about referencing a Stanley Cup, which I suppose is fine.
If you’re not optimistic at this time of year — when the power play still hasn’t sputtered, the defense still hasn’t looked soft, and your line combinations still haven’t proven to be a complete failure — when can you be optimistic? Not that I’m saying those things are going to happen. It’s just that they DEFINITELY haven’t happened yet. And I maintain that the lower expectations surrounding the team this season will only help, because I don’t envision the same type of early-season stick squeezing that plagued them last October.
Of course, this team might be jet-lagged for the first three weeks and won’t be able to stand upright as a result, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves….
Meanwhile, I’m off to the rink momentarily. My plan is to update this post throughout the day with news and notes from the split squad workouts. First up is a Blue team practice featuring the likes of Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev and Wade Redden, followed by a scrimmage against the White unit at 10.