For the past few weeks, potential Rangers players have been fighting for a spot on the roster. As training camp ended and the preseason began, more cuts were made and the team found that they had quite a few position battles on their hands. So after three preseason games and 10 fighting majors, the situation seems to have cleared up a bit.
Goalie Fight (no, not that one)
It seems like Stephen Valiquette has locked up the back-up goalie spot as Montoya needs playing time, not to mention cannot show his face in Nassau after getting pasted by Dipietro last night. Steve is a good back-up, can win some games and is consistant despite erratic playing time. Montoya continues to remain in the minors thanks to his high salary and stage of development and will likely remain there until he is traded to a team in immediate need of a starting goalie. Valiquette will not play this weekend because of a cut on his hand but will be ready to return by the time the season rolls around. Lundqvist hopes to play 70+ games this season but if he gets injured, Stephen is not good enough to step in as a starter and Montoya will get his shot.
Dubie Dubie Doo (no, not that one either)
After a few months of deliberation that included names such as Peca, Cullen and, for some hopeful Islander fans, Yashin, the Rangers seem to be as close as ever to solving their third-line center quandry. The name is Brandon Dubinsky, a young center who has played a few games with the big club and has impressed the management and the fans in camp and the preseason. The Ranger's Dubi brings speed, effort, skill and size to the ice. He is 6'1 210 pounds and plays a similar grind it out style to Rangers success stories Prucha and Callahan. He will likely play with Avery and Callahan and that gritty line could be one of the best energy lines in hockey. Circumatantially, his competition seems to have fallen away as Anisimov has proven to be too weak on the puck and Straka will likely be needed on the first line. This starts a cycle which ends with the team lacking a third line center and Dubinsky being the man to fill that need. Hopefully, he will play well in his first full-time gig with the Rangers.
High School Science
Chemistry is quite the issue as Jagr has had trouble clicking with Gomez wheter Straka, Hossa or Dawes plays the other wing. It obviously takes time for new line-mates to find chemistry but the real question is how long. It is imperative for the top line to click or the Rangers best player and the Ranger's highest paid player will be ineffective. And Sather will have to hide in the wilderness (Edmonton). What is really needed is a lot of practice and ice-time together to make it work. They need to know each other like Nylander knew Jagr. It is best , for the time being, to keep Jagr's line-mates as familiar as possible so Straka looks like the best choice to play the wing. Although the rest of the lineup could benefit from having Hossa or Dawes play up top, it is not practical at this point. Of course this can all change throughout the course of the season but for now, Straka-Gomez-Jagr looks like the way to go.
On The Marc
Rangers top defensive prospect Marc Staal has not locked up a roster spot yet but the young Thunder Bay native is getting closer to his goal. He has not been outstandin during camp or preseason but he has quietly played solid defense and has not made many mistakes. He looked sharp against the Islanders and will likely take the 6th defensive spot. He is competing with Jason Strudwick and Andrew Hutchinson who have been nothing if not detrimental thus far and Thomas Pock who brings more offensive upside and NHL experience but no competition against Staal's shutdown defense. Staal is slated to be the future top defenseman for the Rangers but as with all defenseman, it will be an uphill battle. But this year seems to be the year for the OHL's Most Outstanding Defenseman as he begins his journey to the top.
Remaining Rangers Roster
Artem Anisimov: The Russian's chances are slipping away as he showed good skill but little strength on the puck.
Sean Avery: Last year's catalyst has played well and will likely end up on the third line.
Blair Betts: perennial fourth line center will fil that role once again thanks to strong defensive play.
Dane Byers: Prospect is not quite ready for team but shows promise to be ready in two or three years.
Ryan Callahan: Youngster with hard work and good skill similiar to a young Prucha, has been impressive this summer.
Nigel Dawes: Did not click with Jagr and Gomez and as his first line hopes go up in smoke, so does his roster spot.
Chris Drury: Mr. Clutch has had the best preseason of any veteran and should play well with Shanny and Prucha.
Brandon Dubinsky: After showing good skill and physical play, he is pulling away from competition to center the thrid line.
Scott Gomez: Still working on chemistry with Jagr but has added an aspect of speed to the Rangers.
Ryan Hollweg: Useless player is saved for hits and can't even hold his own in a fight.
Marcel Hossa: As Straka is looking more likely to play with Jagr, MArcel is holding on to a fourth line spot.
Jaromir Jagr: Needs to shake some rust off and stop thinking about Nylander.
Hugh Jessiman: Reportedly sent back down after looking better, but not good enough in preseason.
Lauri Korpikoski: Really shows promise with surprising mix of skill, speed and size but will wait until next year.
Colton Orr: We know he can fight...and thats about all the hit-man will be used for.
Petr Prucha: Should get a shot o n the second line to get back to 30+ goals.
Brendan Shanahan: Looked shaky in his first game, better in the second and must continue to shake off rust.
Martin Straka: It looks like this familiar face for Jagr will be headed to the top line wing.
Ivan Baranka: Showed good flashes but won' be ready for a year or two.
Dan Girardi: Coming off a strong 15 games and looked great in camp and preseason.
Andrew Hutchinson: His uncanny ability to stand still and take penalties reminds me of a man named Aaron Ward.
Darius Kasparaitis: Sorry, but you are on waivers as losing 20 pounds is not enough to fix other hockey issues.
Marek Malik: Still praying that he will not make mistakes and get booed on opening night.
Paul Mara: Defense is improved but slap shot tends to go over the netting in preseason.
Thomas Pock: If Staal doesn't pull out the spot, he will beat out Hutch and Strud.
Michal Rozsival: Plays like the #1 defenseman he is on offense and defense.
Michael Sauer: Staal's buddy is not quite there but will likely make the roster next year.
Marc Staal: He has not been outstanding but has quietly done a good job defensively.
Jason Strudwick: Great guy to have as a seventh defenseman and should be scratched for most games.
Fedor Tyutin: Looks better than ever and is developing nicely with Girardi under his wing.
Henrik Lundqvist: Hasnt been impressive in preseason but he is the real deal and will be ready for 10/4.
Al Montoya: Apparently doesnt know how to fight and may pull out back-up job if Vally's hand is hurt bad.
Stephen Valiquette: he has locked up the back-up job with a strong preseason...as long as his hand heals.
Miika Wiikman: The Rangers needed a fourth goalie in training camp so they put in Dolan's secratary.
Fri 9/21/2007 Rangers 4 New Jersey 3
Sat 9/22/2007 Philadephia 5 Rangers 0
Mon 9/24/2007 N.Y. Islanders 5 Rangers 4 [OT]
Tue 9/25/2007 Detroit (PS) 7:30P
Fri 9/28/2007 N.Y. Islanders (PS) 7:00P
Sat 9/29/2007 Philadelphia (PS) 7:00P
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next Rangers recap. If you have any questions, comments or corrections, please leave a comment or send me a PM.
For more Rangers material, check out blogs by Rangers Blogger Patrick Hoffman and New York Metro Blogger Jan Levine.