The real games begin in just a couple days -- though, to be honest, Hurricanes-Wild from Helsinki doesn't exactly get the blood flowing. Canadiens-Leafs and Flyers-Penguins from this side of the Atlantic should do the trick before the Rangers open in Buffalo and the Isles host the Stars on Saturday.
Here's what we learned through the final week of the preseason:
-- If Vinny Prospal's knee is as bad as The Post's Larry Brooks reported, that's a shame for Prospal, who is one of the good guys and the sort of heart-on-your-sleeve player that Ranger fans got behind.
But in the greater Rangers scheme, it's not a huge blow. Ruslan Fedotenko, while not a versatile center/wing, has signed on for a year at $1-million, a better value than Prospal's $2.48-million cap hit (bonuses included). It also means that a healthy Chris Drury would not signal the demotion of Derek Stepan, who has earned a chance to start the season in New York.
The Rangers took the easy way out by demoting Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko, who didn't have to clear waivers as Michael Sauer would have. Sauer has been good, but I'm sure if all things were equal, waiver-wise, one of McDonagh/Valentenko would have stayed.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, despite his free-agency failures, Glen Sather is a pretty sharp wheeler-dealer. Chris Higgins may not have worked out as a Ranger, but getting both McDonagh and Valentenko, who look like future Rangers for years to come, in exchange for getting out from under Scott Gomez's contract last summer is an amazing move.
One that, should Gomez's devil-may-care attitude crop up again in Montreal this season, Bob Gainey may have to answer for in Habs-land.
-- Speaking of the Canadiens, Nino Niederreiter made a few enemies up there last week, with Mike Cammalleri drawing a one-game suspension for his nasty whack to the back of Niederreiter's leg after the Isles rookie dared hit the Canadiens' veteran in a preseason game.
Good for Niederreiter. He's pretty much a lock to be an Islander all year, and showing he's not shy for contact and means he knows what it takes to not just be on the team all season, but to contribute.
-- Bill Guerin was released from his tryout with the Flyers. The former Islanders captain will not be making a return to LI, according to a source; Guerin had a subpar camp with Philly, which seemed like a good fit. Unless some unknown suitor steps up, the 39-year-old may retire or wait until a team has a need.
There seemed to be an awful lot of tested NHL vets on tryouts who couldn't come to terms. Brendan Morrison didn't sign on with the Canucks after a decent camp, and now the Flames have snapped him up -- who haven't the Flames snapped up off the scrap heap? Kyle Wellwood had a good camp with Phoenix but is still free.
-- The Rangers appear ready to go into Saturday with 25 players on the roster, with Prospal and Drury on IR. Let's say Prospal has to go on long-term IR; when Drury comes back, where does he fit?
Best guess is that Erik Christensen, who will open the season as the No. 1 center, is in the most trouble. If Christensen can't duplicate his chemistry with Marian Gaborik over the first couple games, once Drury returns, either Stepan or Brandon Dubinsky (now a LW) moves up, and Drury either slots in as the No. 3 center or on the wing with Stepan and Fedotenko, with Sean Avery up to play the left side with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan.
All the mixing and matching John Tortorella did during the preseason could pay dividends, since Avery was good with both Anisimov and Stepan.
-- As for the Isles, things are still pretty uncertain. Rob Schremp is out a month, Niederreiter's sore leg from the slash hasn't healed and there are still nine D around, including 2009 first-rounder Calvin de Haan; amazingly, the only place they're settled is in goal.