GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The aches and pains from five preseason games in seven nights, the rigors of coach John Tortorella's first training camp with the Rangers and the separation of talent and need have thinned the herd - at least temporarily.
With 10 days remaining before opening night in Pittsburgh, the initial 54 campers have been sliced to 24, counting Sean Avery, who collided with Ryan Callahan during a drill on Monday. Avery sprained his right knee and was on crutches yesterday. Wade Redden left practice with a sore back. Marc Staal sat out with a sore groin.
So, at this point, following Tuesday's dispatching of forward P.A. Parenteau to Hartford, the October roster is coming into focus.
The goaltenders are set: Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette. Eight defensemen remain and it appears Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy, 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto and veteran Alexei Semenov will join returnees Staal, Redden, Dan Girardi and Michal Rozsival on the blue line. The condition of Redden and Staal seems to have bought a little extra time for Bobby Sanguinetti, who led Hartford defensemen in points and assists last season. The Rangers (2-2-1) host the Capitals Thursday.
In his daily forays with the press, Tortorella has been somewhat noncommittal, but his actions are telling. Gilroy, 25, who was born in North Bellmore, and Del Zotto, who played in London, Ontario, last season, manned the points on separate units during a special power-play practice Tuesday before the full squad skated. "I like his arrogance, the way he'll take a chance to make a play," Tortorella said of Del Zotto, who can play nine NHL games and still be eligible for reassignment to juniors. The 6-6 Semenov, 28, a former Oiler and Shark, is here on a tryout, and has drawn praise from Tortorella for his grit, passing and enthusiasm.
Up front, nine spots are taken: right wings Marian Gaborik, Ales Kotalik and Callahan, left wings Chris Higgins, Vinny Prospal, Avery and Donald Brashear, and centers Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky.
Tortorella, who coached the 34-year-old Prospal in Tampa, likes using the Czech playmaker at center, which opens a wing spot for the speedy Enver Lisin, 23, who arrived from Phoenix in the Lauri Korpikoski trade this summer and has three goals in the preseason. He had 13 in 48 games for the Coyotes. Fellow Russian Artem Anisimov, who has nothing left to prove in Hartford, where he scored 37 goals, seems to have the inside track as the fourth center. He leads the team in scoring (3-2-5) in the exhibition season.