Steve Zipay is an award-winning journalist who has covered events from Super Bowls to World Series and issues
Carl Hagelin walked off the ice and into the Rangers dressing room at Madison Square Garden at 11:21 on yesterday morning, peeled off his jersey and unlaced his skates. He was going to watch Game 5 with the other scratches, from upstairs with some coaches or downstairs inside the players’ area.
But the rookie winger could be an X-factor in Game 6 in Ottawa on Monday, when he is eligible to play after serving his three-game suspension for a high hit to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2.
“He’s disappointed,” said defenseman and fellow Swede Anton Stralman. “I know how I felt when I was sitting out games. But he’s handling it well. He’s able to practice and I think he’ll be fine. We can use his speed and forechecking.”
Hagelin, 23, wasn’t one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy as top rookie, but his importance to the Blueshirts’ attack cannot be underestimated.
After spending time in Hartford at the beginning of the season, the University of Michigan graduate played 64 games in New York, and with 14 goals and 38 points, was the club’s sixth highest scorer. He had two shorthanded goals and two game-winners and in the first two games against the Senators had an assist and four shots on goal. Since the suspension, Hagelin has been shielded from questions and interviews.
“Obviously we miss him in the lineup, but it is what it is,” linemate Marian Gaborik said yesterday. “We just have to find a way to generate more offense.”
Without Hagelin, whose main role on the top line with Gaborik and Brad Richards has been to hunt down pucks in the offensive zone and set up the two stars, (“like dog on bone,” said coach John Tortorella, who asked Chris Kreider, just out of Boston College, to take notes on Hagelin’s on-ice skills), the dynamic duo were goal-less in Games 3 and 4. In fact, Tortorella deployed Gaborik and Richards on separate lines.
In yesterday’s pre-game meeting with the media, Tortorella was asked if he thought Hagelin was itching to get back on the ice. The coach rolled his eyes and answered with one word: “Yes.”
Prospects in playoffs
In a Little Battle of New York (or Connecticut) in the AHL, some Rangers and Islanders prospects squared off last night in Game 2 of the opening-round playoff series between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Connecticut Whale.
In Game 1, LW Ryan Bourque had a goal and assist, and D Tim Erixon registered an assist in a 3-0 win for the Whale. With their junior teams out of the playoffs, top forwards Christian Thomas (2010, 2nd round), J.T. Miller, (2011, 1st round) Shane McColgan (2011, 5th round) are with the Whale as well.
Three draftees are still in the playoffs: D Dylan McIlrath (1st round, 2010, Moose Jaw, WHL), F Michael St. Croix, (4th, 2011, Edmonton, WHL) and C Steven Fogarty (3rd, 2011, Penticton, BCHL).
About 13 Rangers are on Twitter, some more active than others. Before the series began, players said privately that they were told to “take a break” for a while, presumably to avoid distractions and prevent any tweets that might provide bulletin board fodder. Naturally, some fans whined. Brandon Prust was asked last week if he missed the social media interaction. “Not at all,” he said.
The Rangers have 11 unrestricted and restricted free agents. Some won’t be back next season. Here’s the list and current salary cap hit. Who would you keep?
F John Scott, UFA, $512,000
D Jeff Woywitka, UFA, $650,000
D Stu Bickel, UFA, $600,000
F John Mitchell, UFA, $650,000
D Steve Eminger, UFA, $800,000
F Brandon Prust, UFA, $800,000
G Martin Biron, UFA, $850,000
D Anton Stralman, RFA, $900,000
D Michael Del Zotto, RFA, $1.08 M
F Ruslan Fedotenko, UFA, $1.4 M
F Mats Zuccarello, RFA, $1.75 M