Being at a fantasy hockey draft in a league I'm defending, it's fairly tough to pay attention to these exhibitions. But we did catch a little bit early of the Hudson rematch along with the tail end that saw second-year blueliner Mike Del Zotto convert into a gaping net for the Rangers' second straight overtime win over the Devils by a wild count of 5-4 at The Rock.
For those wondering if you'll see that during any of the cool half dozen regular season match-ups, you just might. Let me be blunt. Both team defenses aren't that good. And the Devils seem to have gone from all D to offensive all the time. Yes. They should be quite potent with the Dream Line (Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk) blazing opponents with Devil fire. And the new A-Line of Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner should provide nightmares. If the Devs' third line is a combo of Brian Rolston, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson and maybe Swede rookie Jacob Josefson, that shouldn't be bad either. But the challenging roster decisions Lou Lamoriello is faced with involves cutting salaries like Rolston and perhaps Bryce Salvador, who didn't look great tonight. Would they really cut ties with character guy Colin White? This blogger doubts it.
As for a game that saw the bitter rivals combine for nine after scoring seven at MSG the other day, Henrik Lundqvist was pedestrian in the first allowing a shortside Kovalchuk bomb off a turnover forced by who else but Parise and a routine Andy Greene wrister five-hole that had the Jersey hosts in front 2-1 after one. But the Devils despite dressing many regulars blew a pair of two-goal leads, with new backup Johan Hedberg permitting the final three in which he was hardly at fault. The Devs were victimized by a Ranger power play that converted four different times including Ruslan Fedotenko's tying marker off a Matt Gilroy setup. Yes. Fedotenko had a good game scoring and setting up Ryan Callahan to bolster his chances.
A late David Clarkson tug in the final minute of regulation led to Del Zotto's decider when just 52 seconds into the extra five, he took a Callahan cross-ice feed and calmly shot over an out of position Hedberg, who lost his stick. Taking up space in front was Tim Kennedy, who drew a secondary helper. Gilroy also got credit for a PPG which was largely due to Sean Avery being his usual self in front. He got in Kovalchuk's face a few times and also was leveled by Anton Volchenkov early on. There were two more scraps with Clarkson and Dane Byers going along with Kris Newbury and Salvador when Elias gave the AHLer a crosscheck.
Both goalies finished with predictable ugly lines with Lundqvist allowing four on 29 shots while Hedberg gave up five on 20. Parise netted three assists and Kovalchuk had a goal and a helper as did Greene. Undrafted Devil defenseman Matt Taormina also scored. For the Rangers, Del Zotto had four points (1-3-4) and Callahan three (1-2-3) with Artem Anisimov also tallying. Evgeny Grachev didn't stand out registering no shots. Though he did beat Salvador late with some solid board work to setup a chance.
If these two games were any indication, Battle fans should be in for a treat this season.