The New York Rangers will be representing the NHL in many ways this season. They have started the season in Europe, will play in this seasons Winter Classic versus the Philadelphia Flyers, and will be on the HBO special 24/7 leading up to the Winter Classic.
The Rangers started this preseason world tour with local games against the Newark Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers with a roster of around 60 players. The Rangers made cuts before they packed for Europe that brought the roster close to 34 in which there were 2 forward spots and 1 maybe 2 defensive positions being fought for according to Rangers coach Tortorella.
While Staal stayed in the states dealing with headache issues from last years hit by brother Eric Staal, the Rangers started the European tour with wins over teams from the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Slovakia. Next stops are Monday in Switzerland and finally on to Stockholm, Sweden to open the regular season Friday against the L.A. Kings and Saturday versus the Anahiem Ducks. The Rangers made another round of demotions and reassignments that have the current roster at 25 (24 players are allowed by the NHL during these overseas trips as they allow 3 goalies on roster).
The Rangers draft picks and very young prospects started off this preseason with the Traverse City Tournament. They were a young group of players that showed alot of speed, skill, and scoring touch in making it to the championship game before losing to a much more experienced and better team in the Buffalo Sabres. many of these prospects played well enough to get an invitation to the Rangers main camp in Tarrytown. All Ranger veterans, new Rangers Brad Richards and Mike Rupp, along with these prospects all got to experience Camp Torts. Many struggles and minor injuries laid ahead of many of them for the next few days and for some like Michael Sauer, for weeks do to preseason games.
Since going to Europe the Rangers narrowed their roster by either sending to Jr's or to the AHL Tim Erixon, Blake Parlett, Pavel Valetenko, Dylan McIrath, Carl Hagelin, Dale Weise, Kris Newbury, Ryan Bourque, J.T. Miller. There seems to be only two battles for positions left, the 13th forward and the 7th defenseman. Battling at the forward spot seems to be between Sean Avery and Eric Christensen. The advantage has clearly got to go to Avery. He brings something to the ice that very few players in the NHL can bring, he is pure entertainment, even though at times his bad timed penalties hurt the Rangers.
Eric Christensen is the polar opposite as he is a boring time players with good hockey skills that is very good at the penalty shot. Christensen is hurt this year as this summers key addition Brad Richards will be one of the top 3 called upon when the shootout occurs. On defense, all seem safe at this time as Marc Staal is out of the lineup and Mike Sauer is recovering from a shoulder spain suffered against the Flyers. By what Tortorella has said, it would seem like Stu Bickels game is more of what he is looking for with his rugged play and solid positioning. Look for either or both to be sent down later in the season when Tim Erixon is ready to contribute at the NHL level, same way that the Rangers brought along Ryan McDonagh.
The Rangers started off their preseason games against the Newark Devils and Philadelphia Flyers seeing what the future Rangers could bring in game situations going 1-1-1 and learning what it will take to make the jump to the NHL. Then the Rangers hopped on a plane and started the European aspect of the world tour. The Rangers started off in the storied Sparta Czech Republic team. The Rangers played a sluggish game but came away with the win.
Then the Rangers went to the organization in which King Henrik won his championship to play versus Frolunda in Sweden. There was a great welcoming ceremony for Henrik and he played well in another Rangers win with many young Rangers were making their last attempt to land a spot on the team. The Rangers then made thier latest cuts and traveled onto Slovakia where one of Slovakias greatest hockey players Marian Gaborik got to play in front of a crowd that saw him develop into the NHL star he is. The only regulars missing off of the roster for this game was Staal, Sauer, and Avery all out with injuries. The result was again another win.
The Rangers are great ambassadors for the NHL and the league is using them to their advantage. For the next 2-3 years, the Rangers will open the season overseas due to the renovation going on at the Garden. The Rangers and their European counterparts play hard against each other but after all the games, their has been a sort of celebration. The fans are all standing and chanting while the teams are on the handshake line, the stick salute at center ice with both teams in the center ice circle together, and both teams posing for a picture together. This European tour has been a real celebration of hockey and has the Rangers starting off on the right foot. There will be many triumphs and tribulations over this season, and we will see them all on HBO leading up to the Winter Classic.
During the Rangers demotions, so far there were only 4 players that have had to pass through waivers. They are Pavel Valentenko (went unclaimed and was assigned to the AHL Whale), Mitchell, Weise, and Newbury(we will know Tuesday if they get claimed).