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First cuts come on Day 6 of training camp

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Tortorella Discusses the Cuts at Camp Watch
Boyle on Trying to Make the Roster Watch

Tonight's Pregame Notes/Roster

By Jim Cerny,

With the Rangers set to play preseason games in Detroit on Friday night and in Boston on Saturday afternoon, head coach John Tortorella trimmed 20 players from the club’s training camp roster on Thursday.

The Rangers now have 34 players in training camp, including five forwards -- Patrick Rissmiller, Tyler Arnason, Dane Byers, Corey Locke, and Jordan Owens -- who will continue camp with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, 19, remained on the Rangers roster after the first round of cuts were made on Thursday. He is the youngest player left.
“It’s not an easy day,” Tortorella said. “But it’s important as we set our sights on our main goal which is getting the National Hockey League team ready for the season.”

Among the 15 players assigned to Hartford were goalie Miika Wiikman, defensemen Mike Sauer and Nigel Williams, and forwards Dan LaCouture, Andres Ambuhl, and Dale Weise.

Five players were returned to their major-junior teams, including 2009 draft picks Ethan Werek (second round), Ryan Bourque (third round), and Scott Stajcer (fifth round).

“I didn’t go into (training camp) with any plan,” Tortorella said of his personnel decisions. “It’s how they play. You need to let them make the decision, and I’m trying to be as objective as possible.”

With only two weeks -- and five preseason games -- remaining to get ready for the 2009-10 regular season opener in Pittsburgh against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, Tortorella can now set out implementing his system with players more likely to play at the NHL level this year.

There will also be several spirited battles for the remaining open spots on the roster over the next two weeks. Ten defensemen remain in camp, with Tortorella needing to choose the six or seven best by Oct. 2.

“We’re still evaluating our defensemen,” said the head coach. “That position is wide open, as you can see on our roster. That’s a position that’s in a state of flux right now as far as what we are going to do.”

A pair of youngsters, 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto and 25-year-old Matt Gilroy, have made impressive bids for roster spots over the first week of training camp. Del Zotto and Gilroy both played well in each of the first two preseason games, logging important minutes and playing confidently in Tortorella’s preferred aggressive style.

Gilroy scored a highlight-reel goal in Wednesday’s contest against the Devils in Newark, and added a goal in the shootout that night, as well. Despite his early success, Gilroy is not taking anything for granted.

“One day at a time is how I’ve been taking it since I got here, and that’s how it’s going to be,” said Gilroy. “If I get too full of myself then that’s the worst thing that can happen.”

Del Zotto, the club’s first-round pick in the 2008 draft, is also downplaying his strong start, and the possibility that he could make the opening night roster.

“I think (cut-down) day is just another day,” stated Del Zotto. “You’ve got to go and do the right thing and work just as hard as the last day.”

Tortorella will take a look at two other young defensemen for the first time in game action this weekend as Bobby Sanguinetti and Ilkka Heikkinen make their pre-season debuts.

Sanguinetti, the Rangers’ first round selection in the 2006 draft, brings one full year of pro experience with him into this season, while the 24 year-old Heikkinen scored 34 points in 54 games in the Finnish Elite League a year ago.

Veteran Alexei Semenov, in camp on a pro tryout, and 25-year-old Corey Potter, who played five games wih the Rangers last year, are in the hunt for the final two or three spots on the backline, as well.

There are still 20 forwards remaining in training camp, including the five who are continuing camp with Hartford.

One of those forwards battling for a spot on the roster is Brian Boyle, who was acquired by the Rangers from Los Angeles this past June. The 24-year-old Boyle was in a similar roster-spot battle a year ago with the Kings, but admits that he has a much more relaxed and confident approach this time around. And he credits Tortorella for much of that.

“Coach has been pretty good to me, taking me aside once or twice and kind of let me know where I stand and what I have to do to make the team,” said Boyle. “I’m not worrying like I did last year, looking over my shoulder. And I am better off for it.”

Another youngster still in the mix up front is Evgeny Grachev, the Rangers’ third-round pick from 2008, who was named OHL Rookie of the Year in 2008-09. Like Boyle, the 19-year-old Grachev played in each of the first two preseason games, earning praise from Tortorella both nights.

“Last season gave me a lot of confidence,” said Grachev, who scored 40 goals with Brampton a year ago. “I know what I can do, and I know what to expect from my opponents.”

One forward who does not have to fight for his roster spot is Marian Gaborik. The talented Slovak wing, nursing a sore groin since the start of camp, provided a glimpse into things to come this season when he skated in his first scrimmage on Thursday morning.

Though not skating as hard as he would when 100 percent healthy, Gaborik still stood out with his excellent play in the scrimmage, and he even beat Henrik Lundqvist for a goal. Being able to finally scrimmage with his new teammates on Thursday was a big deal for Gaborik.

“You watch scrimmages and you watch games, you want to be out there,” said Gaborik. “It’s a new team for me so it felt good to get out there and get to know the guys on the ice and get some chemistry going.”

Tortorella said in the afternoon that Gaborik would not play Friday night in Detroit against the Red Wings, but he might make his first preseason appearance on Saturday.

The Rangers’ next home preseason contest takes place on Monday when the Blueshirts will host the Red Wings at Madison Square Garden.
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