Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Devils Drop Home Preseason Opener To Rangers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -The Hudson rivalry was renewed once again. If you could call it that with only a handful of familiar faces taking part in the first of a home-and-home. The rematch was set for Wednesday night across the Lincoln Tunnel at Madison Square Garden with different lineups expected.

Five months removed from a sweep of the archrival Rangers, the Devils took to the ice at Continental Airlines Arena under much different circumstances- dropping the home preseason opener 3-1 Tuesday night before 11,241.

With the Rangers opting to dress only a few vets as opposed to mostly rookies and second-year players, it looked every bit like a meaningless exhibition.

Though the Devils played Martin Brodeur for the first half of the action, the two-time Vezina winner wasn't sharp early on, letting in the game's first three goals just 8:17 in. In fact, the Rangers' three came in a 4:16 span. Blair Betts got it started when he took an Adam Hall feed and beat Brodeur with a backhand.

After Hall tallied unassisted at 7:50, rookie Brandon Dubinsky connected with a wrister from about 50 feet out only 27 seconds later to give New York a three-goal lead.

With not much happening for the Devils down three, there was a scrap less than a minute later between the Rangers' Francis Lessard and New Jersey's Nathan Perrot. Perrot is a former 1995 second round pick who is attempting a comeback from injury this preseason in hopes of making the final roster.

His fight seemed to awaken his teammates as only a couple of minutes later, Tuomas Pihlman took rookie defenseman Matt Corrente's pass and beat Al Montoya at 11:31 to cut the deficit to two. Former New Jersey 2001 first rounder Adrian Foster also picked up a helper.

It was the only chance they beat the Rangers' former 2004 first round selection on. The second-year pro was sharp in his half of action stopping 11 of 12 shots before giving way to veteran backup Stephen Valiquette.

Though the Devils weren't able to beat Valiquette (13 saves), after being outshot 11-8 in the first, they carried more of the play the final two periods outshooting their opponents 13-11 including only six Frank Doyle's way after he replaced Brodeur.

Outside of a scrap between Rangers enforcer Ryan Hollweg and Grant Marshall midway thru the game, it didn't resemble a real game. But more a contest of who could be sent to the penalty box more and not take advantage. The two teams combined to go 0-for-14 on the power play- Rangers (0-8) Devils (0-6).

It was more a reinforcement of the hooking, interference and delay of game calls which the league emphasized last season in an attempt to improve scoring.

Zajac Impresses: Though they didn't inch closer on the scoreboard, one new Devil coach Claude Julien had to be pleased with was Travis Zajac. The former 2004 first rounder who signed out of North Dakota this past Spring distinguished himself. Used primarily in a third line center role, Zajac was strong on the puck in 15:05 and registered three shots. The only drawback was his lack of success in the faceoff circle (2-8). Outside of that, he had a solid showing and could be one Devil newcomer to watch as this abbreviated preseason unfolds.

Notes: Along with Brodeur and Marshall, Devils' lineup also featured Scott Gomez, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, Sergei Brylin, David Hale, Brad Lukowich, Dan McGillis along with unsigned center Erik Rasmussen due to the team's cap situation. Also taking part were second-year pros Pihlman, Barry Tallackson along with rookies Corrente, John Oduya and Tomas Harrant. Foster and career minor leaguer Justin Papineau rounded out the roster. ... After a three assist effort in a win at Boston in Lowell Sunday, 2006 first round pick Corrente continued to impress with another assist. ... John Madden sat out his second straight with a sore groin. ... Among regulars Rangers dressed Betts, Hall, Hollweg, Marcel Hossa, Jason Ward, Fedor Tyutin, Darius Kasparaitis, Aaron Ward and Karel Rachunek. Rookies who took part included Nigel Dawes, who assisted on Dubinsky's goal and former first rounders Lauri Korpikoski and Hugh Jessiman saw significant action up front while 2005 first rounder Marc Staal teamed with Ward on the blueline and finished +2 in 19:39. Ivan Baranka, Dwight Helminen and Lee Falardeau also took part as did vet Martin Richter and Lessard.

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