An understrength Rangers club gamely took on the New Jersey Devils in Albany tonight and came away with a 2-1 OT loss. The team battled gamely, thanks in large part to goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot, who stopped 39 of the 41 shots they faced, with Talbot in particular showing some good poise with the glove.
Clearly the Rangers were overmatched offensively, with eight of the Blueshirts never having played in the NHL, and all but Talbot having never even played in the AHL. Still the team managed to generate some offense, and could easily had one or two more goals if the finishing touch had been there.
On defense, the guys to watch were Michael Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto and Brendan Bell, all of whom are battling for a spot on the roster. For Del Zotto, it was more of what we saw last year. A couple of turnovers, a strech pass that didn't quite pay off, and a handful of shots that went wide of the mark. He'll need to settle his game down and come up with a better performance than we saw tonight if he hopes to be back in a New York sweater this season.
Veteran Steve Eminger didn't have a great night either, and it was his pass in OT that resulted in the goal to the Rangers. The returning free agent will need to also pick up his game, or he might find himself on the outer.
By contrast, Bell probably didn't hurt his chances, demonstrating some above average skating skills and a good eye for passing and shooting the puck. No doubt the Rangers will want to see more, but the initial impression would have been possible.
Rookie Tim Erixon was relatively quiet, though he continued to look comfortable and confident in his own zone. Perhaps he was looking to ease his way into the game, but there was very little to comment on - either bad or good.
Of the two remaining blueliners, veteran Dan Girardi was quiet and effective, while Dylan McIlrath raised his profile during a second period stint that saw hiim more involved both offensively and defensively. He didn't look out of place playing against men, a good sign after a less impressive tournament in Traverse City.
In net, Lundqvist looked efficient for the most part, but did get himself out of postiion on occasion. The one goal he gave up came right from the slot, in close. As noted above, Talbot really turned in an eye-opening performance, and will be a guy worth watching as the season progresses.
Up front, the Rangers dressed few veterans. Artem Anisimov looked involved throughout the game, and maybe is motivated by the possibility of Derek Stepan taking some of his time. Brandon Dubinsky got better as the game went on, while Sean Avery had his moments, but perhaps missed an opportunity to have a bigger influence on the game.
Erik Christensen, who is also battling for a spot, didn't help his cause with a quiet outing - an all too common occurrence last season.
Dale Weise had a fight and a goal, and could get himself an invite to Euriope when the team flies out Monday. Carl Hagelin looked a little overmatched strength wise, and looks likely to be heading to Connecticut if nothing else changes.
Ryan Bourque started the game well, but was a lesser factor as the game went on, Andre Deveaux spent half the game in the box following a fight with David Clarkson in the first - one that the smaller Clarkson may have gotten the edge in, and the trio of JT Miller, Shane McColgan and Christian Thomas all performed well at times, but will need some extra playing time before they push for a spot.
From coach Tortorella's perspective, he though the line of Avery, Miller and John Mitchell had the best forecheck pressure. Was not impressed with Christensen's game, and though that McIlrath got better as the game went on.
He also noted that the ice looked "terrible" from where he sat, and that all the kids had things to work on while at the same time noting the Devils had about thirteen NHLers on their roster.
Next game for the Rangers is Friday against the Devils in Newark - 7:00pm MSG
Quotes reported by Steve Zipay, Andrew Gross and Jesse Spector.