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Final cuts about present and future

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Fedotenko Agrees to Contract Terms

Training Camp Roster
Complete Training Camp Coverage

By Jim Cerny,

One day after the team’s roster was trimmed to 25 players, Rangers players were back at the MSG Training Center on Monday in preparation for the regular-season opener Saturday night in Buffalo.

The coaching staff put the team through a 90-minute workout, with all but three players taking part. Chris Drury remains sidelined with a broken left index finger; Vinny Prospal sat out with a sore right knee; and Marc Staal was off ice receiving treatment for a sore hip. Staal is expected to return to practice on Tuesday and is in no danger of missing the opener vs. the Sabres.

After practice, Rangers head coach John Tortorella discussed the organization’s decision to send young defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko to the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford on Sunday.

Rangers head coach John Tortorella said the decision to send two defenseman to Hartford was based on wanting to help them develop at one of the game's hardest positions to play at the pro level.
“You have to make sure that you don’t force feed as far as their development,” said Tortorella. “The quicker they get down there to play and go through the American Hockey League, that will be the right process to get them up here quicker to play in the National Hockey League. When that will be, I don’t know. But they both had good camps.”

McDonagh, 21, is a first-year pro who starred at the University of Wisconsin the past three years. He was hoping to make the Rangers out of training camp alongside his good friend, and former teammate at Wisconsin, Derek Stepan.

That Stepan did make the team made for a day of wide-ranging emotions for the young center on Sunday.

“It was a bittersweet day for me with Ryan moving out,” said Stepan. “He was bummed, but he also knew that it’s not the worst thing. He’s very close to being an NHLer and he’s going to have a long career.”

Valentenko, 22, might have been the most pleasant surprise in training camp. Coming off an injury-marred season in the KHL a year ago, he displayed a confident, physical style of play that impressed the coaching staff throughout camp.

However, just as the case with McDonagh, Tortorella felt that some time playing in the AHL was beneficial to Valentenko’s career development.

“We feel that they have a chance to be part of the core here, but they need to go down there and go through the process a bit,” Tortorella said of McDonagh and Valentenko. “It’s a hard position to play, defense. Their play will dictate when they’re back here.”

Stepan delighted to be a Ranger

Rangers forwards Ruslan Fedotenko, left, and Derek Stepan have much to celebrate as both remained on the team's roster after cuts were made Sunday.
Although Stepan felt badly that his good friend McDonagh did not make the team, he was equally as thrilled to know that he will be on the opening night roster for the Rangers.

“It’s a special feeling and I am excited,” said Stepan, 20. “But now the work really begins. You have to work twice as hard to stay up here.”

Stepan recorded five points (3-2-5) in five preseason games for the Rangers. On Monday he skated in between veterans Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko, a threesome that skated together late in the pre-season.

“For some reason, me, Aves, and Feds have seemed to click right from the first game we played together,” said Stepan. “They are two veteran guys who know how to work it, and they will help me a lot.”

Fedotenko agreed to terms on a Rangers contract following the practice session. The Rangers’ scoring leader with seven points (one goal and six assists) in the preseason, he had been invited to camp on a tryout basis and earned a job with the team on the basis of his strong performance.

“Fedotenko was our leading scorer and he has had a really good camp,” said Tortorella. “Hockey-wise, his play speaks for itself.”

Sauer's patience, hard work pay off

With McDonagh and Valentenko being sent to Hartford, seven defensemen remain on the Rangers roster with Matt Gilroy, Steve Eminger, and Mike Sauer securing the final three spots.

Mike Sauer
For Sauer, who fought his way back from shoulder surgery that limited him to 42 games with the Wolf Pack a year ago, Sunday was certainly a good day.

“It’s obviously exciting,” said Sauer, the Rangers’ second round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. “I want to prove myself at this level so it’s good to get the opportunity to showcase myself.”

Sauer, who spent the past three seasons in Hartford, said he received a slew of texts from former Wolf Pack teammates, including Dane Byers and Dale Weise, congratulating him on surviving the final cut.

However, Sauer is not about to get too comfortable. He was right back at work on Monday, and plans to work that much harder now to retain his spot with the Rangers.

“It’s a competitive business,” said Sauer, 23. “You have to show up every day, can’t take days off. But every day is an opportunity to show you belong.”
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