Update, 1:23 p.m.: Tom Renney said he’s planning on playing first round draft pick Michael Del Zotto in some exhibition games, perhaps as early as Saturday night in Ottawa.
“I’d like to do some research on what their roster’s going to look like so he can survive a game,” Renney said with a laugh. “But he’ll play. He’ll play some games.”
Update, 12:56 p.m.: Petr Prucha on the trade rumors swirling around him the last few seasons: “If you read some of the articles in the newspapers, they said I was actually gone already. That’s not good for your confidence, but I was trying not to think about. That’s not always 100 percent possible, but I don’t think it hurt my game.”
Update, 12:48 p.m.: You’re right. The last couple of targets for disgruntled Rangers fans have been defensemen, and heaven knows if Wade Redden starts giving the puck away like Marek Malik did on occasion, you’ll hear the boos all the way to Staten Island.
My point is that Redden is too solid a defenseman to allow that to happen. I still have a hard time with the salary, mostly because “solid defensemen” don’t normally get paid more than $6 million a season. But I don’t see him drawing enough attention to himself to solicit boos.
Update, 11: 43 a.m.: I think everyone, myself included, thought the Rangers overpaid for Wade Redden when they locked him into a six-year, $39 million deal. But now what’s done is done, and Redden — playing alongside Dan Girardi — indeed appears to be an upgrade. I like Redden’s puck-handling and his ability to make the simple but effective first pass. And I like the fact that he’s willing to absorb a hit — and there have been plenty the first two days — to make a play.
The question has been raised how Redden will fare in New York given the pressure of his new contract. My expectation is he’ll be fine, because defensemen are different. When Chris Drury came here last year, the problem early on is you didn’t notice him enough. With defensemen, other than on the power play, being noticed isn’t necessarily a good thing. So even if Redden needs time to find his footing, he can still do so without being crucified.
Update, 11:01 a.m.: Scrimmage is over. Blue wins 3-1, with Scott Gomez sealing the win with a goal in the second period.
Curiously, a handful of players, including Lauri Korpikoski and Dan Fritsche, were tested out with Gomez and Zherdev while Naslund dropped down to play with Blair Betts and Colton Orr. I don’tÂ think either of those players are serious candidates to play on that line. But it is an opportunity to see what they could with upper echelon players.
While hardly dominant, both acquitted themselves well.
I’m not the only one impressed by the speed of the workouts so far. “It does seem faster, doesn’t it?” Tom Renney said while watching from behind the glass.
Update, 10:26 a.m.: If it’s possible to be playing at an even quicker pace than yesterday, today’s scrimmage has ramped up the RPMs. Perhaps it’s the infusion of prospects, including forwards Artem Anisimov, Andreas Jamtin, And Dale Weise, as well as first round draft pick defensemen Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto.
Weise, a fourth round draft pick, scored the first goal for Blue, and almost added another later in the opening period.
The line of Nikolai Zherdev-Scott Gomez-Markus Naslund continued to fly, although not without incident. After trying to make a move heading into the offensive zone, Zherdev coughed up the puck to Chris Drury headed the other way. A pass found Nigel Dawes, who rifled a shot high stick side on Henrik Lundqvist.
Blue regained the lead after Dan Fritsche toasted Michal Rozsival on the outside, and then beat Stephen Valiquette. This is all the more noteworthy seeing how I had just remarked to someone that Fritsche hadn’t really shown me much so far. I have vowed to not talk the rest of the day.
Earlier: We’re off to a late start thanks to traffic, some wireless issues, and the fact that the Rangers rookies, fresh from Traverse City, have booted us from the media room.
Blue and White are about to scrimmage, but in the meantime, here’s a “link to my newspaper story on Nikolai Zherdev”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080918/SPORTS01/809180402/-1/SPORTS.
And here’s Larry Brooks’ story in which he touches on a “potential battle for spots on the fourth line”:http://www.nypost.com/seven/09182008/sports/rangers/rangers_want_more_from_betts_129590.htm.
A quick thought on this: It’s true, Tom Renney said he wanted more production out of his fourth line. And it’s also true that the words “Blair Betts” and “offense” are rarely used in the same sentence, unless that sentence also includes the phrase “doesn’t provide much”.
But my guess is that as much as he wants more goals out of his fourth unit, Tom Renney isn’t willing to sacrifice responsible two-way play. And for all of Betts’ shortcomings, he is still the Ranger’s best defensive forward (and a top penalty killer, another important area now that Martin Straka, and very likely, Brendan Shanahan are gone).
As well as he supposedly played in Traverse City, Artem Anisimov is still probably physically a year away from being an NHL player. And I still think Petr Nedved was brought in more as a courtesy to the veteran than to actually compete for a job.
IÂ wouldn’t call Betts a lock for a job, but I do think it’s more likely Renney tries to surround Betts with wings who have more scoring touch, which will be interesting seeing how the coach obviously also values Colton Orr.
More in a bit…