Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rangers-Devils Preseason Review

Last night, exhibition got underway for half the Battle population. The Rangers and Devils renewed blood and hatred with two familiar faces helping the Devs prevail 2-1 in overtime at Pepsi Arena at Albany. I caught a good chunk and instead of just recapping, we'll look at some highlights of the first of two preseason meetings with the Hudson rivals again doing battle tomorrow night in Newark.

Goals were scored by Petr Sykora (remember me???), Dale Weise and finally Patrik Elias, who cashed the OT winner off a dreadful Steve Eminger turnover. For the most part, New Jersey dictated play due to a stronger crop up front led by former A-Line members Elias and Sykora, who thus far has looked good in his tryout. It certainly wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he made the cut and got to play with his Czech pal and perhaps a healthy Zach Parise on a first line B. If Ilya Kovalchuk plays on the top line with Dainius Zubrus and Kyle Palmeiri, it's not like there's much of a drop off. Kovalchuk also took part, getting robbed by Cam Talbot, who flashed some leather. More on him in a bit.

The Devils outshot the Rangers by a wide margin (42-21). With rookie Adam Larsson also debuting to oohs and ahhs, Pete Deboer had to like what he saw. The No.4 overall pick is as advertised. A smooth skating D who is a good passer with a nice shot- showing poise when he was on the power play, including a nifty set up for Sykora's marker. You can tell that pro experience back home has aided the mature Swede, who paired up alongside Henrik Tallinder. While he did get pushed off the puck by an aggressive Weise leading to the tying goal late in regulation, there was a bit of a mix up with Tallinder and Sykora botching the coverage. Artem Anisimov made a good play, using his strength to find Weise for the equalizer past backup Jeff Frazee.

Most encouraging for the black and red was Parise, who was flying all night. It was intercept of a poor Eminger pass off the mark for intended target Weise, that led to Elias' winner. Zach Attack simply passed for the Devils' all-time leading scorer, who neatly deflected it home in the first minute of OT. The Devs should benefit greatly from Parise, who always seems to be in the right place. In his walk year fully recovered, he should be dynamite. The Devils also were encouraged by Union College product Keith Kincaid, who blanked the Rangers before Frazee took over. He was fine but only faced 10 shots due to a lineup mostly comprised of kids, including top pick J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, Shane McColgan and '10 first rounder Dylan McIlrath, who fared better than in last week's prospect tournament. Tim Erixon also took part, again not damaging his chances. Ironically, he faced former Swede 'mate Larsson with both demonstrating why scouts like each. I particularly enjoy Erixon's poise, which is similar to Larsson. Perhaps the Rangers stole him from Calgary with Roman Horak going the other way.

-There were fisticuffs with behemoth Andre Deveaux going after David Clarkson at the end of a shift, earning 17 penalty minutes for instigating with the smaller Devil, who doesn't back down from anyone. Sure. Deveaux gets the edge but only due to his size. In another scrap, gritty Brad Mills got the better of Weise with a unanimous decision. Mills hustled all game, providing energy for the Albany hosts- also turning in exceptional PK work.

-Erik Christensen has been put on notice already, not even wearing his No.26 which maybe going to Ruslan Fedotenko following Brad Richards' arrival. Christy didn't exactly standout. Sean Avery, who's no lock to make it, was okay. John Tortorella was pleased even though you hardly noticed him. The Rangers didn't attack much but picked up their forecheck in a more competitive third.

-The MSG broadcast included Chico Resch to the already annoying Joe Micheletti and voice of reason, Sam Rosen. While Chico went gaga over Kincaid, Michidiot kept trying to get his attention following a couple of sparklers from Talbot, who was more impressive due to quality of shots. His takeaway of Kovalchuk's high rocket made it look easy. There was absolutely no chemistry between the Odd Couple. I guess it was expected. The rivalry won't be the same without Doc Emrick, who at least we'll see on Versus/NBC.

-They showed a new rule to help determine goals with a green line added behind the goal line. It only confused me more. I guess I just prefer one stinkin' line. Sometimes, this league overdoes it. Though this was Brendan Shanahan's concoction. Hopefully, it will work. Kudos to Shanny for fully explaining Jody Shelley's 10-game suspension, including the first five regular season games after foolishly boarding Darryl Boyce during last night's Flyers-Leafs match. I like how he stated that Shelley had time to slow up and was a two-time repeat offender. Excellent stuff. He also explained a four-game ban for former Devil Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, including the Flames' season opener following an incident with Vancouver's Matt Clackson, who cameback to win an entertaining scrap between the two.

-Some other players of note who played Wednesday:

Devils-Anton Volchenkov, Jacob Josefson, Eric Boulton, Anton Stralman, Cam Janssen, Steve Bernier

Rangers-Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, Mike Del Zotto

-Del Zotto was shaky getting taken off the puck by Mills, who got a shorthanded chance out of hustle.

-Lundqvist was sharp, only permitting Sykora's PPG. He finished with 16 saves.

-Girardi and McIlrath were the team's best blueliners with each making solid plays in their end. Dylan blocked a couple of shots, threw a nice check and played poised.

-Janssen struggled throughout and didn't go. Signed teammate Boulton was a pest.

-Stralman, who had stints with Toronto, Columbus and Calgary, was active and did a nice job jumping in. He definitely should be on an NHL roster.

-The rematch tomorrow should see Martin Brodeur debut while Mike Rupp does the same for the Blueshirts.  Game time is 7 ET and MSG will have it.

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