Long day, and a busy one at that, here at the MSG Training Facility.
In the morning, high-flying winger Marian Gaborik took part in his first scrimmage of Rangers training camp. Though he didn't go full throttle due to his sore groin, Gaborik still looked good, even scoring a goal against Henrik Lundqvist.
Perhaps equally as important as playing in the scrimmage was the fact that Gaborik then followed up by participating in an hour-long practice, and reported no issues with the groin.
"I watch the scrimmages and I watch the games, and I want to be out there," explained Gaborik, who will definitely sit out Friday's pre-season tilt in Detroit and likely Saturday's in Boston, too. "This is a new team for me, so I definitely want to get out there and get to know the guys on the ice, and just be a part of it. So today, I had fun out there."
Rangers coach John Tortorella was pleased to have Gaborik on the ice for a third straight day, and taking part in a scrimmage for the first time. He also explained that he respects Gaborik, and the star's battle with hip/groin injuries in the past, though he is also trying to gauge when to push him and when to pull back.
"With Gabby I think it's him feeling mentally comfortable with it," noted Tortorella. "He skated well, and it was good to see him scrimmage today....we have time here...so hopefully we can be smart here and get him geared up for that opener."
Gaborik is not the only player who will miss Friday's game against the Red Wings. The Rangers trimmed the roster by 20 players today, with five others---forwards Tyler Arnason, Dane Byers, Patrick Rissmiller, Corey Locke, and Jordan Owens---continuing training camp in Hartford so that they do not have to clear waivers just yet.
No surprises as youngsters like Ryan Bourque, Scott Stajcer, Roman Horak, and Ethan Werek were returned to their Junior teams.
Among the bigger names sent to Hartford, the club's AHL affiliate, were defenseman Mike Sauer---whom many thought heading into camp had a legitimate shot as a 6th or 7th blueliner---and forward Dane Byers.
Tortorella clearly stated, however, that just because a player is sent to Hartford, it doesn't mean "out of sight, out of mind". Those players will still be evaluated and could work their way back into the mix at the NHL level.
Ten defensemen remain on the roster. Four---Michal Rozsival, Wade Redden, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi---are veterans with locks on NHL jobs. 25 year-old rookie Matt Gilroy is among a group of prospects still battling for the other two or three spots, and he has been very impressive so far in the pre-season---just check out his highlight-reel goal last night against the Devils.
2008 first rounder Michael Del Zotto is making a spirited run at a spot on the varsity. Bobby Sanguinetti (another former first round pick) and Finnish import Ilkka Heikkinen will make their pre-season debuts this weekend, and Corey Potter remains in the mix, too, along with veteran camp invitee Alexei Semenov.
Four goalies remain---largely for practice and game purposes. Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette will form the NHL tandem come October. But Chad Johnson, the rookie from Alaska-Fairbanks who played well last night in Newark, has impressed enough to hang on a bit longer, along with Matt Zaba.
There are 15 forwards left vying for 12 or 13 spots. The biggest surprise of those remaining is Paul Crowder, a star at Alaska-Anchorage, who turned pro last spring. Expect a fierce battle between the likes of Brian Boyle, Aaron Voros, Evgeny Grachev, PA Parenteau, and Crowder for those final few roster spots up front.
I spoke to Boyle this afternoon, and he said he learned from overanalyzing and worrying about his situation last year with the LA Kings. So this year he is more calm, worrying less, and playing better. He also credits Tortorella for communicating effectively with him throughout camp and for playing him in big spots last night against the Devils.
"I let that affect me last year, kind of looking over my shoulder, and I'm not going to do that this year," said Boyle. "If I worry about it, I get in my own head too much. If I keep working hard, like I have been doing, I think I'll give myself a really good shot."
I'll have a full story on today's activity at newyorkrangers.com later on this evening.