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The New York Rangers begin their 2011-12 campaign in about 14 hours in Stockholm, Sweden against the Los Angeles Kings. Getting off to that strong start that all teams desire at the beginning of the season may be more of a challenge for the Rangers now, as Marc Staal has been placed on injured reserve.
The shutdown defenseman is still dealing with post-concussion headaches, and while he can technically return to the lineup for the Oct. 15 game against the New York Islanders, that seems very unlikely to occur. General manager Glen Sather said he may be out a month; there have been rumors that he could be shut down for a month until his headaches subside.
The Blueshirts recalled 20-year-old defenseman Tim Erixon from the Connecticut Whale on Wednesday night, but Thursday they claimed veteran defenseman Jeff Woywitka off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens. Earlier in training camp, coach John Tortorella said the team sent Erixon back to the AHL because he needed to get acclimated to NHL rinks (after playing in the Swedish Elite League for three years), and thus could follow a similar path to the big club as Ryan McDonagh did last season. Now, with the status of the defense corp, he has been recalled. He looks to be paired with Steve Eminger, at least for the opener.
Woywitka obviously won't be up to speed to play in the first game of the season, but could play Saturday. He's 28 years old, 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds. He's not much of an offensive threat but could be in the lineup regularly if he plays well until Staal returns.
Sean Avery Clears Waivers
Other news from late Wednesday was that no team claimed Avery, meaning that he be on his way to AHL or possibly playing overseas. It's unclear which option he'll pursue.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that the New York Rangers have waived fan-favorite winger Sean Avery. Avery was in competition with Erik Christensen for the 13th and final forward spot on the Rangers’ roster, and head coach John Tortorella – never an Avery fan – has made his decision.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun confirmed the move with Avery’s agent Pat Morris, who said that Avery will be placed on waivers and if he clears, will explore all of his options.
Avery was in his second stint with the Rangers. In 2007, New York acquired him at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Kings, and he instantly became a fan-favorite with his brash style. Ahead of the 2008 season, he signed with the Dallas Stars but enjoyed a short tenure there, as the team let him go on the heels of his now-famous remarks about NHL players sleeping with his former girlfriends. He returned to the Rangers for a second stint, which now appears to be over.
We’ll have more analysis and breakdown of this move and the upcoming 2011 Rangers season.
The New York Rangers begin their season Oct. 7 in Sweden against the Los Angeles Kings. The start of Marc Staal's season, however, will be delayed at least two games as he continues to recover -- and deal with -- post-consussion headaches that have haunted him throughout offseason workouts and training camp.
When the news about Staal's concussion was released earlier this training camp, the Rangers expressed optimism that he'd be back soon. It seemed doubtful then that Staal would be ready to go by the start of the regular season, and coach John Tortorella's statements today are not at all unexpected.
"Marc Staal continues to work with his people (in New York) and he's not coming on the trip, he will not be (in Stockholm)," Tortorella said as quoted by NYRangers.com's Jim Cerny. "He continues to work with the doctors out there, so we thought it was best to leave him alone right now. So he won't open thie season with us."
The good news -- which may end up being premature -- is that Staal will not be placed on injured reserve, at least not yet. New York plays two games in Europe, then will have a week break once they return to the United States .
The Record's Andrew Gross says it's a "big, big if" that Staal is able to use the week before the Rangers play the Islanders to get into game shape. But if he is able to, then Staal should be able travel with the team West. There's a good chance that if he's not ready by then, he'll be placed on IR. The defenseman would not be able to compete in games for at least a week if that's the case.
The New York Rangers announced their second round of cuts Saturday, reducing the roster to 25 players, which is one away from where the roster will stand come opening day Oct. 7. New York is allowed to have a third goalie for the European regular-season games.
Among the Rangers sent packing to the Connecticut Whale are Tim Erixon, Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury, Blake Parlett and Dale Weise. Dylan McIlrath was sent to his WHL team, the Moose Jaw.
With how competitive the battles for the final roster spots have been, these eight demotions are not at all unexpected. The Rangers currently have 14 forwards on the depth chart, and coach John Tortorella wants to start the season with 13. He admitted that Sean Avery and Erik Christensen are duking it out for the final spot and will have until Oct. 5 (the day the Rangers must trim roster by one more) to prove themselves.
Reporters have indicated that Avery is in tip-top shape and he's played well while in the lineup. However, he's had to leave the last two games with injury. In a time when you want to showcase all you can, that doesn't bode well for his chances. Christensen has been invisible for large stretches of the preseason but has a goal, which he recorded in Friday's game.
Tortorella also discussed Erixon's timetable and said that "he still needs to go through the process." It's likely he has a similar path to the NHL that Ryan McDonagh had when he was called up just after the New Year.
New York has eight defensemen on the roster, likely indicating that Michael Del Zotto has a good chance to make the club from the start. The biggest surprises left on the roster include defensemen Stu Bickel. At 6-foot-4, 218 pounds the 24-year-old Bickel is a body-banging type defenseman with not a lot of offensive skills, but he has improved -- and impressed -- thus far. It's likely he'll be sent back once Marc Staal and/or Michael Sauer return from injury.
Staal did not make the trip with the team to Europe, but Friday he was at the Connecticut Whale's practice. That's pretty much where the good news ends as the 24-year-old has not been cleared for contact, which means he is not in game shape. The Record's Andrew Gross was at Whale's practice and reports that Staal skated for a half-hour before the team came on the ice, then stayed on after for more skating (totaling 100 minutes). It was the first time Staal saw the ice since Sunday's practice with the Rangers.
Staal said he's feeling "pretty crappy" because of the layoff between skating and he wasn't sure whether if he would make it to Europe by the team's first game. The blueliner considers himself day to day and plans to skate with with the AHL team Saturday if he doesn't get any headaches from now until then.
While a successful team is comprised of pieces that fit together and all contribute, the stalwart defenseman -- along with goalie Henrik Lundqvist -- is probably one of the two members of the team who is toughest to replace. He and Dan Girardi formed a lock-down duo, and without Staal, the team will have to rely on an even more inexperienced back line. But, the Rangers and Staal need to make sure he's fully healthy before returning to the ice as any further hit could sideline him for even longer.
It was revealed at the start of New York Rangers' training camp that stalwart defenseman Marc Staal suffered a concussion back in February and that he was getting headaches as he worked out this offseason. He "practiced well" Sunday, according to coach John Tortorella, but he will not be flying to Europe when the rest of the team leaves after its game against Philadelphia.
Tortorella left the option open that Staal could return in time for the first regular season game of the year in Stockholm, Sweden on Oct. 7, but the longer he's held out of real games, the more doubts I have about his condition and when he will actually return. Don't get me wrong, this is all on Staal to give the OK that he can resume playing again, but concussions are not to be taken lightly and he needs to be cleared in every aspect before he plays again.
New York Daily News' Jesse Spector reports that Staal met with specialists on Thursday and Friday, was scheduled for acupuncture treatment after Sunday's practice and that he has been medically cleared for contact. But the Rangers are being cautious -- and rightfully so. Even if he has to miss the first few games (or weeks), it's crucial that he's healthy now, then see him come back and reinjure himself.
"We're going to try to get him on the trip," Tortorella said. "Once he feels better, and we feel he can get into all the stuff we want him to do to get ready for the regular season, he'll come out."
Tortorella said he'd have another update in "four or five days."
Continuing on the injury front, Brandon Prust, who has not played in the preseason after offseason shoulder surgery, will make the trip to Europe. He is expected to play in the preseason games.
The Rangers will play four preseason games in five days in Europe. They are expected to cut two forwards after tomorrow's game against Philadelphia, but with Staal's uncertainty, three spots on defense are up for grabs.
The New York Rangers announced their their first batch of cuts Saturday afternoon, assigning a 21 to their AHL affiliate and seven to Juniors. With the first-round of cuts complete, the Blueshirts have 35 players left in training camp. The beat reporters universally agree that the Rangers will bring 33 players to Europe, which they will travel to for four games after they play Philadelphia on Monday.
The full list of the cuts are below, but let's first discuss some of the more shocking demotions and the more eye-opening players who will stick around.
With the state of the Rangers' defense, cutting 23-year-old Pavel Valentenko reveals that the organization believes he's taken a step back this training camp. Last year, he had 17 points in 79 games, but with a big shot and physical presence, he nearly had a chance to make the team after last year's camp. He had a very underwhelming game against the Devils on Friday night, which certainly played into this decision. He has to clear waivers to be assigned to the Connecticut Whale, and I'd think a team would take a chance on him.
Christian Thomas was sent back to his Juniors team. Not that I expected him to make the final roster, but the reviews on him have been glowing and I at least thought he'd stick around for a few more days for the experience. Chad Johnson and Cam Talbot were also sent to the AHL, but that's moreso to get consistent experience, which they wouldn't with the Rangers (they can bring three goalies to Europe).
The nicest surprise player still in camp is 2010 first-round defenseman Dylan McIlrath. He looked more comfortable as the first preseason game went on, throwing some mean hits along the way. Since he's still only 19 years old, he's liikely staying just to gain valuable experience.
The Rangers kept 11 defensemen in camp (including Marc Staal). If Staal's post-concussion symptoms linger, there's a real chance here for guys like Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto and Blake Parlett to make their case. Del Zotto would had a better game Friday, and would be the surest to make the team out of this bunch, but needs to sustain a simple game and not look so afraid all the time.
Out of the forwards the Rangers kept around, youngsters Ryan Bourque, Dale Weise and Carl Hagelin figure to have the best chances of claiming the last spot on the roster, but with the camp Mats Zuccarello has had, it look sto be tough. That's why there's the rest of the preseason to make such a decision. Erik Christensen looks to be an odd-man out, with Sean Avery as well, though he could serve as an extra forward on the roster.
First cut list below:
PLAYERS ASSIGNED TO CONNECTICUT (AHL):
Goalies: Chad Johnson, Jason Missiaen, Cameron Talbot
Defensemen: Lee Baldwin, Collin Bowman, Sam Klassen, Tomas Kundratek, Jyri Niemi, Jared Nightingale, Pavel Valentenko
Forwards: Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Tommy Grant, Jordan Hickmott, Tayler Jordan, Kale Kerbashian, Chad Kolarik, Chris McKelvie, Matt Rust, Scott Tanski, Kelsey Tessier, Jason Wilson
PLAYERS RETURNED TO JUNIORS:
Defensemen: Peter Ceresnak (Peterborough, OHL), Samuel Noreau (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Forwards: Shane McColgan (Kelowna, WHL), J.T. Miller (Plymouth, OHL), Michael St. Croix (Edmonton, WHL), Christian Thomas (Oshawa, OHL), Andrew Yogan (Peterborough, OHL)
PLAYERS STILL IN RANGERS' CAMP:
Goalies: Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Stajcer
Defensemen: Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Blake Parlett, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Ryan Bourque, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Andre Deveaux, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury, Brandon Prust, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Derek Stepan, Andreas Thuresson, Dale Weise, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello
New York Rangers coach revealed on Sunday that his young shutdown defenseman Marc Staal had suffered a concussion from the hit his brother planted on him back on Feb. 22. Tortorella also said that the team would take a cautious approach with Staal during training camp and the preseason, because the 24-year-old was dealing with headaches when he ramped up the intensity of his workouts this summer.
Speaking with the media for the first time since the news, Staal said even though he's "steadily improving," he still gets headaches -- some of which can last up to four or five hours -- after workouts.
As per Katie Strang of ESPNNewYork.com:
"I feel no symptoms if I don't do anything. If I sit on the couch all day I don't get any headache," Staal said. "If I push myself really hard, later in the day, more often than not, I'll get a headache."
As mentioned previously, Staal will not play in any of the Rangers' three preseason games in North America. Strang also said that Staal took Monday off after three days of "strenuous physical testing" to begin camp.
"Those three days were pretty tough and I came to the rink not feeling all that great, so we decided to take the foot off the gas a little bit," Staal said.
The Rangers' assistant captain said that he began workouts this summer, he couldn't get through a session without getting a headache, but he says he's been improving since that time.
"As soon as I get a stretch in where I'm not getting headaches after workouts or have a day like [Monday] after three hard days, I'll start playing games," Staal said. "Hopefully, that's sooner rather than later."
Sure, the fact that New York's best defenseman says he's "steadily improving" is good news. But concussions are nothing to play around with, and to hear he still hasn't overcome the symptoms is not a good sign. Tortorella wanted to get him into at least one of the four preseason games in Europe, but I have my doubts that will happen. The recovery period for athletes suffering concussions has been well-documented, and it's nothing to play around with.
The Rangers need Staal and if he has to sit out a few weeks until he's right, then so be it. No matter how many games he misses, this is a devastating blow for New York, who is looking to make serious headway in the Eastern Conference this season. Staal, quite frankly, has become one of the better defensive defensemen in the game. The blueline will be young (and even more inexperienced), but the Blueshirts first need to make sure that Staal is fully healthy and it's better to ensure that now, then to see him deal with it during the season -- and be shut down for even longer as a result.
The New York Rangers spent much of this past season mixing and matching players in the lineup because of various injuries to all sorts of key players. More so than anything else, the Rangers made the playoffs because of the roster depth they haven't had in many years.
Over the past four seasons, one of the rock-solid, reliable young players has been defenseman Marc Staal. Since he's been in the NHL in 2007, he's played 80, 82, 82 and 77 games. On Day 3 of training camp, however, the team released some worrisome news on Staal.
Back on Feb. 22, Staal was hit hard into the boards by his brother, Eric Staal. While the knee injury he suffered was revealed right away, the news that he also suffered a concussion from the hit was not. Staal missed three games then, and sat out two more later in the month because he "didn't feel right."
Coach John Tortorella said that Staal experienced headaches -- residual effects of the concussion -- this summer as he began to ramp up his workouts. The 24-year-old was cleared for contact then when he returned in March, and is cleared for contact now, but the team wants to be careful with their defensive stalwart, so he will be sitting out the first three games in North America, and has been sitting out the team's scrimmages as well. However, Torts does want to get him in to at least one of the four European games.
"He's progressing nicely," Tortorella said. "We just want to be cautious and get him ready for the regular season. The past four days he's feeling better during workouts.
Tortorella described the headaches as "nothing really debilitating but it was still there."
When you see how long a player like Sidney Crosby has been out since he suffered a concussion, and how debilitating it has been for Marc Savard's career, it has to make the Rangers worry. There is no point in playing one of their best players now. Get him back to 110 percent healthy, then put him back into the lineup.
The Rangers want to "be smart with a very big part of our puzzle," Tortorella said.
Tortorella also updated the statuses of Brandon Prust and Michael Sauer. Prust, who underwent shoulder surgery 4.5 months ago, will sit out the preseason games in North America, as doctors want him to go without contact for two more weeks. Sauer is day-to-day with a sore knee, and Torts wants to get him into scrimmages early this week.
The New York Rangers will mark Day 3 of training camp on Sunday, and if there's one message to grasp from coach John Tortorella thus far, it's that despite the additions of veterans Brad Richards and Mike Rupp, there are spots to be won on the opening day roster for young players. And, oh yeah, if you want to win a job, you better be in tip-top shape!
As quoted by The Record's Andrew Gross:
"We have to continue to try to infuse more youth into our lineup," Tortorella said. ... We added some people at the other end who can mentor. But you can't forget about back-filling with youth and growing that way. There are spots open and there's going to be competition along the way because we want to continue to get young guys in there. So it's a good situation for them. There’s a number of kids out there that are going to vie for a spot depending on how they play. I would be (disappointed if none made it) because it’s important for our organization to keep on trying to grow from within. But I’m not going to force feed it, either.”
Gross notes that the obvious candidates are defenseman Tim Erixon and forwards Carl Hagelin, Christian Thomas, Dale Weise and Ryan Bourque. But don't forget about a player like Mats Zuccarrello as well. Tortorella was very impressed with him last year, and really liked his fearlessness -- plus, he won quite a few games in the shootout! Toward the end of the year, he looked a bit warn down, though, but it remains to be seen whether a year of experience and an offseason knowing what the NHL is all about makes him a frontrunner to earn one of the spots. Don't forget, there will be plenty of newer names as the Rangers open the preseason schedule next week, but it's unlikely anyone would make the team unless they really rose above the rest.
Torts saying this Saturday to reporters is a good motivation tool for his veteran guys -- Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, Wojtek Wolski. If a younger player makes the roster, these are the first guys who would be sitting in the press box come game day, or playing for another team when the regular season kicks off. My bet is that the Rangers make a trade or two to rid themselves of these excess players, if some young guys prove they need to be given a chance
On the defensive side of things, the first two D pairings are already set: Marc Staal-Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh- Mike Sauer. Steve Eminger is back again this year, and even though he might not seem important, he fills the important seventh defenseman role very adequately. He's the perfect guy to spell one of the younger players on this final defensive combination.
The Rangers obviously like the 20-year-old Erixon because they went out and acquired him this offseasos. There have also been good reports on him from the Traverse City prospects tournament as well, suggesting his game is polished beyond his age. Michael Del Zotto may have had a rough sophomore season, but he's shown up looking noticebly bigger and stronger, and he said he's very 'motivated' to return to the NHL.
If one thing is for clear, it's that the Blueshirts want to see their younger players succeed and make an impact in the NHL -- and their coach expects them to rise to his challenge of making the team.
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