Thursday, September 29, 2005

Inside Blueshirts

In their fourth exhibition game, the Rangers lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.

With a watered down lineup for the second straight game in an attempt to assess which young players deserve roster spots, the Rangers were penalized frequently against mostly Isles starters.

Despite being penalized 12 times for 27 minutes and 10 Isles' power plays, the Blueshirts killed off nine to stay in the game.

The Islanders got on the board first 1:40 in when Petr Prucha lost his backcheck on Janne Niinimaa, resulting in a backhand that Kevin Weekes stopped near the goal line. Despite uncertainty on video replays, Don Koharski's signal for a goal held up. Oleg Kvasha and Tomi Pettinen assisted.

Jaromir Jagr tied it on the power play at 9:15 from Fedor Tyutin. Off a draw, Tyutin's pass sprung Jagr on a two-on-one with Martin Rucinsky. Jagr patiently held onto the puck faking out DiPietro, going glove side.

But just 2:22 later, with Ville Nieminen off for tripping, Trent Hunter converted the Isles' only power play goal of the night. After having a Mike York shot deflect off him, he beat Weekes top shelf to put the Isles ahead 2-1. Brent Sopel had the other assist.

Afterwards, the Ranger penalty killing unit tightened up, blanketing the Islanders on their final seven including twice more in the first.

With Jagr in the penalty box for hooking late in the second period, Ranger special teams came through again to tie the game. Jed Ortmeyer scored shorthanded at 14:22. Off a Darius Kasparaitis clear, Blair Betts and Ortmeyer came in two-on-one. Faking a pass to Betts, Ortmeyer surprised DiPietro with a wrist shot short side. It was the second consecutive game Ortmeyer scored. Betts and Kasparaitis tallied assists.

Early in the third, Weekes came up big against the Isles' big guns to keep it knotted. He made several sparkling saves including a stone job on Miroslav Satan from in close and a blocker save on Shawn Bates. Weekes' (13 third period saves) sharp goaltending allowed the Blueshirts to force overtime.

In the five minute four-on-four, Dominic Moore had a great chance to win it early but the puck slid off his stick forcing him wide.

Forced to come up big due to a Dale Purinton boarding minor giving the Islanders a four-on-three, Weekes stopped four shots including a glove save on an Alexei Yashin one-timer.

With the game undecided, the Isles took the shootout 2-1 to earn victory. After Mark Parrish and Jagr scored, Bates put his team in front when he deked Weekes, beating him five-hole. Prucha's attempt to force another round was denied when DiPietro robbed him on a forehand deke with a left toe save.

DiPietro finished with 23 saves while Weekes turned aside 33 of 35 shots.

For the Isles, it was their last preseason game. The Rangers play two more against Boston and then home for the Devils Sunday.


Players Still Competing For Jobs: During Thursday's game, several young players dressed. Jamie Lundmark centered Rucinsky and Jagr while Betts played with Nieminen and Prucha. Jarkko Immonen was with Ortmeyer and Chad Wiseman and Moore centered Ryan Hollweg and Jason Ward. On defense, Kasparaitis paired with Tyutin while Joe Rullier was with Pock and Jason Strudwick teamed up with Dale Purinton.

Steve Rucchin, Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, Tom Poti, Marek Malik (groin), Michael Rozsival (groin) and Max Kondratiev didn't suit up.

Notables:

-Weekes was named the team's starting goalie for the season with Henrik Lundqvist backing up.

-Tyutin continued his impressive play on the blueline logging 27:09 with an assist, three blocked shots and a plus-one rating.

-Nieminen left after the first with a groin problem, playing just 7:24.

-The line of Hollweg, Moore and Ward was very effective. It created a few chances off turnovers. Hollweg finished with four shots and three hits in under 10 minutes of action. Ward had one shot ring off the crossbar late with under eight minutes left in regulation. Moore logged 13:02 including 5:40 shorthanded. He also won 10 of 14 faceoffs.

-Betts logged 18:50 including 5:22 on the PK. He and Ortmeyer had excellent chemistry shorthanded all game.

-Ortmeyer wore an 'A.'

-Pock took three minors including a Delay of Game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. But it wasn't all negative for Pock, who had four hits and blocked four shots in 23:07.

-Playing on the top line at center, Lundmark didn't distinguish himself, failing to register a shot in 17:13. He also lost nine of 15 draws.

-Prucha continued to create chances, registering three shots and had three takeaways in 15:16. But he was suspect in his own zone.

-Immonen was mostly quiet in 11:46 of action with just one shot. His line generated one real chance in the second. He won six of 11 faceoffs.

-Purinton and Strudwick struggled at even strength.

Decisions Coming: With the October 4th deadline coming up this Tuesday, the Rangers must decide if they want 22 or 23 players. They need to assess if they will carry 14 or 15 forwards and eight defensemen. At the moment, Kasparaitis, Poti, Malik and Tyutin are the only givens on D with Kondratiev, Pock, Purinton, Rozsival, Rullier and Strudwick still in consideration. Up front, Jagr, Nylander, Straka, Rucinsky, Rucchin, Ortmeyer, Nieminen and Lundmark should all be on the top three lines leaving Betts, Hollweg, Immonen, Moore, Prucha, Ward and Wiseman vying for jobs.

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