Dry run this morning in advance of the opener. En route shortly. Will report from there.
Meanwhile, here's my piece from last night. It's sensational to be back in New York, BTW.
The Rangers’ stalled offense, with just 14 goals in seven games, won’t be rejuvenated solely by the imminent return of defenseman Michael Sauer, who likely will return for Thursday’s home opener after missing five games with an injured shoulder. The secondary scorers have to produce.
Ruslan Fedotenko, installed on the power play and the second line, with Brandon Dubinsky moving to center, had his first goal and an assist in Winnipeg on Monday and just missed another score on a deflection that slid past the post. He also drew a penalty on a breakaway that led to Ryan Callahan’s power play goal. “I thought Feds was one of our best forwards,’ coach John Tortorella said.
But Dubinsky (24), Derek Stepan (21) and Artem Anisimov (18), who produced 63 goals last season, have none in seven games. If an opposing team’s defense bottles up Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards (who had none of the 17 shots in the 2-1 victory in Winnipeg on Monday), the second tier has to be effective.
After scoring once in six games, the power play managed two goals and seemed to connect on passes more often. Yet as Tortorella said: “The power plays were (Brian) Boyle, Fedotenko and Cally. They’re not the guys you were hoping to do something.”
In a move that signaled Sauer’s return to health, Brendan Bell was assigned to the AHL yesterday.
During the four-game trek through Western Canada, Sauer, one of the team’s top four defensemen last season, participated in practices and the morning skates, first shooting gingerly, and then increasing in intensity.
On Monday, the 24-year-old blueliner said that he was waiting for the green light to begin contract drills, which presumably will begin Wednesday, when the Rangers hit the Garden ice for the first time since April for a practice.
Ryan McDonagh, who has moved up to partner with Dan Girardi in Marc Staal’s absence, and Sauer, who was a plus-20, and proved an effective second pair for the Blueshirts last season. The 6-3 Sauer, a right-handed shot who scored three goals and 15 points in 75 games, is expected to join lefty Michael Del Zotto on the second pair.
Sauer’s return would add a piece to the defensive jigsaw puzzle that has a huge chunk missing in Staal, who is resting and being treated for concussion-related headaches that began last summer.
Bell, who was signed as a free agent after playing last season in the Swiss League, made his Rangers debut against Edmonton on Saturday, playing 11:26 and getting two shots on goal and was a minus-1, losing the puck on a punch that led to an odd-man Oilers rush that and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ goal.