Day one of New York Rangers training camp has come to a close with four separate groups of players taking the ice for head coach John Tortorella's conditioning skate/test. It was certainly an action packed first day with numerous storylines and plenty to discuss. Thanks to Andrew Gross', Steve Zipay's and the Rangers' twitter accounts, we were continuously updated with all happenings at the training facility in Tarrytown, New York. Based on their reports, I took some of the main points and elaborated on them, below.
Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, skating with the first group this morning, seemed to struggle keeping up with the rest of the pack in the later stages of the sprint. The Norwegian winger, coming from the Swedish Elite League, has never had to compete for a roster spot in the past. This is his first time going through a process like this and it likely shocked him a little bit. Probably not the way he wanted to begin camp, but hey, it is only day one and his skills have not been tested yet; only his endurance.
Sophomore defenseman Matt Gilroy was one of the more impressive skaters in group one. He is returning to camp this year bigger and stronger and hungry for a permanent spot on the roster. By the sound of it, Tortorella has liked what he has seen from Gilroy to this point and Matt himself appears to have more self-confidence than he did last season.
Sean Avery, for the second straight year, was dominant out there in the sprints. Skating with group number two, Sean hit the ice determined and ready to put in a 110 percent effort. Look, his roster spot is not exactly solidified, but if he continues to work like this he will quickly grab Tortorella's attention as a standout in camp.
His body is always in fantastic physical shape so I would imagine this would be the part of camp that he should be a lock to excel in.
Much more after the jump.......Fourth liner Brian Boyle was surprisingly quicker out there and according to the beats "moving well". He told Andrew Gross that he worked with former Olympian Barbara Underhill over the summer to improve his technique. Also skating well was tryout Ruslan Fedotenko, which is somewhat unexpected because of his older age.
Michal Del Zotto, despite struggling to breathe through his nose after last week's surgery, kept up today on the ice. Afterward he reportedly cramped up, but that does not matter. I give him credit for even stepping foot on the rink to take part in a conditioning drill when his breathing is not at 100 percent. And then to go out there and keep up is even more extraordinary.
To the pleasure of fans, veteran defenseman Wade Redden did not perform well in day one of camp. According to the beat writers he was "feeling the burn" and not able to keep up with his group's smoother skaters, who obviously are in better shape than he is. Redden also addressed the fact that he may be sent down to Hartford (AHL) by stating he "is being given the opportunity to stay with the team". That opportunity may slip sooner than he thinks if he continues to put out a half-hearted effort. As we know, that does not fly with Torts as coach.
Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust displayed a great battle this afternoon - in a good way. The two were back and forth in the first place spot during the skate with Dubi leading for most of the time. Gross described Dubinsky's start as "blistering". These two are in the top five on this team when it comes to hard workers. I am quite positive both will have a spot on the squad come October (assuming no trades will be made).
Speaking of battles, captains Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan matched each other stride for stride. Along with them was Alexei Semenov, who surprised many with his speedy skating and strong endurance. Remember, Semenov did make the team out of camp last year, but it was personal difficulties that prevented him from playing. We will see if he can repeat this September.
Both Henrik Lundqvist an Marian Gaborik did not skate in today's conditional test as precaution. Gaborik said that he had a sore back, but the coaching staff was not concerned. He did not take part in this portion of camp last year either, but that did not hurt him one bit. When it comes to someone like Marian who is injury prone, you are better off safe than sorry.
As for Lundqvist, he did not skate due to a sore groin. However, he is scheduled to skate tomorrow (Saturday) in day two of camp. Again, better safe than sorry, especially when dealing with a goaltender.
Defensemen Dylan McIlrath, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi all held up well in the sprints. Skating is a key part of a blue-liner's game so obviously it is a good sign all of these guys skated well.
Prospect forwards Ethan Werek and Evgeny Grachev "tore up the drill" as well. Both of these youngsters have a shot at making the roster but will need to work unbelievable hard. Today, I would say, was a great start for both of them.
Oh, and if you want a good laugh, D Steve Eminger lapped bruiser Derek Boogaard during their skate. I do not know if that makes Eminger look good or Boogaard just look bad. I will leave that for you to decide.
So that pretty much sums up day one of New York Rangers training camp. Big thanks to all of the beat writers who provided this information for us on twitter and on their blogs. For some more in-depth stuff, check out Andrew Gross' Ranger Rants, where he has some interviews with players following their skates.
Check back here tomorrow for updates on day two of camp!