It All Begins Today

That’s right. Tonight is the first game of the 2010-2011 NHL Season the New York Rangers play and we don’t stop again until June (hopefully). For now it’s just preseason, but in 16 short days the Rangers will take the ice with the best 23 players we have for the next 82 games.
I’m going to look at tonight’s matchup and delve into what I’m excited to see this preseason.

Rangers are home against the New Jersey Devils tonight for the first of 6 preseason games. Get ready to see some rooks and some shady hockey, at least until October 9th. Remember, the Devils have already announced that they’re going with the top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Ilya Kovalchuk. That’s a scary line to face.

Here are the lines for tonight:

Alex Frolov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky – Erik Christensen – Mats Zuccarello
Ruslan Fedotenko – Tim Kennedy – Brandon Prust
Derek Boogaard – Brian Boyle – Dale Weise

Marc Staal – Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh – Michal Rozsival
Alexei Semenov – Mike Sauer

G: Marty Biron, Chad Johnson

Almost half of this line up are players trying to make the team. Personally, I’d love to see Fedotenko and Semenov cut right now because I feel we have zero need for them, but that won’t happen. You can start to see what Sather and Torts were trying to do this offseason, as it looks as though they wanted to grab as much talent as they could find, want and need, and then narrow the team down to the best 23 players we got. Taking the NFL approach is not a bad idea. If anything, this game should be excited.
So what am I looking forward to this preseason? A couple things actually…

1. I know in my heart its a bad idea, but the little kid inside of me can NOT wait to see Gabby and Frolov on the same line. I mean we all know we’re nothing like the Senators of old, we’re not going to be like the PIZZA Line or even the Legion of Doom, but it sure as hell will be entertaining. Personally, I think it’s the most exciting line we’ve had since Dubs’s rookie year when he lined up with Avery and Jagr. Gaborik and Frolov could be a decent line if we had that missing piece solved in the middle. Tortorella toyed with Derek Stepan there during scrimmages and that’s actually how its going to line up tonight.

2. Mats Zuccarello-Aasen – After watching highlights of the Frodo from Modo all summer I’m anxious to see this kid play in Ranger blue. He’s a very talented kid, but people knock on him because of his size. His stick handling is debatably the best on the Rangers. Something else to add to his resume, and I don’t know why it’s not talked about more, is that he put up better numbers in the Swedish Elite League and on the same team, Modo, than the Sedin twins. I’ve been waiting since April to see this kid in action and tonight we all get to. (Click the link to watch highlights of him in Sweden – both songs in the video are Skillet -“Hero” and Nickelback – “Burn It To The Ground”)
What’s also nice is that tonight he’s lined up with Christensen and Dubs. Those two are good friends, so they might make a good pairing. I’m hoping Frodo mixes well into that. Torts also had a lot of good to say about him on Tuesday’s interview.

3. Seeing Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan play. We’ve all been waiting for them to turn pro and come to New York, and this is the year we get to see them develop. I’m very curious as to whether they make the roster or start in Hartford. Surprisingly enough, to me at least, they have a valid shot of making the team. Tonight will be their first time playing professional hockey against the NHL. And once again, who isn’t excited to see Stepan play with Frolov and Gabby?

4. The Boogeyman – Boogaard finally plays in a Ranger unifrom. We all know what he was brought here for and we all know what we can do. It was interesting to listen to a Tortorella interview where he said he’d like to get Derek down to a certain weight but they’re playing with that idea because they don’t know what his ideal weight is.  Torts went on to say this camp has probably been the most conditioning Boogaard has ever seen and they’d like to make him more a rounded player than just his enforcer role. And of course, I can’t wait to see him hit the shit outta people.

5. And finally, who’s going to step up and be that leader while Chris Drury is out for the next 4 weeks with a broken finger? Will it be Dubs, who people are saying is assuming more leadership every year? Why not Callahan, who earned himself an “A” last year as his leadership abilities continue to grow every season? I’d love to see someone stand up and take this team by the reins. I love Dru, I do, but I don’t think he’s a great captain. Personally I don’t think we’ve had a great “Captain” since Mark Messier. I don’t think Drury knows how to light the fire under these kids. Tortorella didn’t do it, so that makes me wonder who can step up into that hole while it’s empty.

Tags: Alexander Frolov Chris Drury Derek Boogaard Derek Stepan Glen Sather Ilya Kovalchuk John Tortorella Marian Gaborik Mats Zuccarello Aasen New Jersey Devils New York Rangers NHL Preseason Ryan McDonagh Travis Zajac Zach Parise

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