Del Zotto, Kopecky Fine $2,500

December 31, 2011

In the final 10 seconds of last night’s 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto got physical with Florida’s Tomas Kopecky. The 21-year-old defenseman cross-checked the forward, who retaliated with what was clearly a sucker-punch to Del Zotto’s head.

A melee ensued, leading Mike Rupp raining punches down on Kopecky and thus Rangers fans really getting behind Rupp for the first time this season.

The scrum resulted in fines to both Del Zotto and Kopecky getting fined the league maximum $2,500, though it is difficult to understand how both were given equal penalties. Del Zotto definitely got his stick up, but Kopecky downright leveled him with a punch when Del Zotto was not looking, dropping the defenseman to the ground.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Kopecky “got what he deserved” from Rupp, and many feel the same way.

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Rangers Alumni Locker Room Photo

December 31, 2011

We’re about two hours away from the drop of the puck for the Winter Classic alumni game between the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, and the Rangers gave a little behind-the-scenes look into the locker room.

If you’re a long-time Rangers fan like myself, you should be pretty excited for this game. I grew up watching Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and others throughout the 1990s, and have heard about the players that came before them my whole life.

I’m also very excited to see Mike Gartner back in Blue after getting dealt at the deadline in 1994.

With that said, there’s no question there are a few duds on the roster. I’m looking at you, Dale Purinton.


Sean Avery Clears Waivers, What is Next?

December 31, 2011

Sean Avery was placed on waivers for the second time this season last night. And today, for the second time, he cleared them, according to Rangers Report.

The 31-year-old winger will now report to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, where he will most likely finish up the season and his four-year, $15-plus million deal he originally signed with the Dallas Stars.

There was some speculation — though mostly just internet rumors — that the New York Islanders may be interested in the agitator, but the risk seemed more than the reward, as Avery has said numerous times that he only wants to play for the Rangers.

In 15 games this season with the Rangers, Avery registered three goals, one more than Brandon Dubinsky has in 36 games this season, averaging about six minutes of ice a night.

According to several reports, the already poor relationship between Avery and head coach John Tortorella soured for good Dec. 10 after a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres after Avery brought his mother and family friend into the Rangers’ locker room.

Tortorella said it was just a numbers game, as both Wojtek Wolski and Marc Staal are expected to return to the team along with their combined nearly $8 million in salary against the books.

So what is next for Avery? He’ll play out this season and be an unrestricted free agent come July 1. But as we’ve seen, his worth around the NHL seems to be non-existent. Would he head to Europe? I think he may call it quits and focus on his other interests in the Big Apple, including his restaurants and bars, as well as his fashion and status as a socialite. 

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Rangers Waive Sean Avery

December 30, 2011

The New York Rangers waived winger Sean Avery for the second time this season, ultimately ending the controversial wingers tenure in Manhattan.

Avery, 31, has been a healthy scratch every game since Dec. 10 in Buffalo. Before then, Avery was averaging about seven minutes a game, but still managed to score three goals in 15 games. He was placed on waivers prior to the start of the season before being recalled on Nov. 1.

According to Rangers Rants, coach John Tortorella was angered by Avery bringing his mother and a family friend into the team’s dressing room.

The move was made to free up a roster spot and cap-space as Wojtek Wolski is set to rejoin the team after a groin injury he suffered in the first handful of games this season. The other nominee for demotion would be Erik Christensen, who was kept over Avery for a second time this season.

Avery spoke to Larry Brooks at the New York Post, and said he could still be an asset for a team that is willing to give him a chance, if there are any suitors out there.

“I have a lot to prove, and I have a lot of game left after not being allowed to play my game for the last four years,” Avery told the Post. “I guarantee that I’ll play my ass off and give everything I have for the team that will give me the chance I wasn’t getting [by coach John Tortorella]. The team will be getting a guy who has a lot to prove.”

Avery admits there is a lot of baggage that comes with him, but if a coach and GM could look past it, he can contribute to a new organization. “I’m hungry to prove people wrong.”

The Post said Rangers GM Glen Sather gave Avery’s agent, Pat Morris, permission to reach out to GMs around the league to see if there is any interest before reporting to the AHL. If a team does claim him, they would be on the hook for $1.036 of Avery’s contract, with the Rangers and Dallas Stars splitting the rest.

Could the New York Islanders be the place Avery finds himself? Brooks said there could be off-ice value for the winger, value that could bring people to the Coliseum.

As a big Avery supporter, I’m pretty bummed but not as saddened as I was the first time around. The team is playing its best since maybe 1996, so to complain about a player not making much of a difference would be foolish.

With that said, I think Avery could have played a large role on this team if he was ever given a chance by Tortorella. I hope he gets picked up — but not by the Islanders. 

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More Than Two Outdoor Games A Season?

December 29, 2011

With about three days away from this year’s Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, the question of adding more outdoor games to the NHL schedule is being tossed around.

The Winter Classic has become a staple in the United States, while the Heritage Classic has done the same for NHL fans in Canada. The question is should there be more games throughout both countries involving teams in different markets?

“Absolutely, there should be more Canadian teams in these games,” said NHL chief operating officer John Collins, to the Canadian Press. “Just like teams in Minnesota should be involved and St. Louis should be involved and Colorado should be involved — you can just keep going on and on.”

Collins said there the attention and positive feedback the league has received since the first game in 2008 from Buffalo could lead the league to experiment into new markets like those listed.

“It’s still early, it’s only five years,” Collin said. “Certainly we’ve got a lot of attention and I think the business metrics have been great. I think just getting to more markets (will help with) exposing the game.”

Collins said the outdoor games don’t have to be played on Jan. 1 like the Winter Classic has traditionally been played. The thought of having several games back-to-back at various outdoor locations on one day could be something to think about.

Collins, who took the job in August 2008, said he’d like to see the games be more nationalized than regionalized. “I think there are a lot of markets that would be fantastic,” he said. “I’d like to ultimately see these games not viewed as a regional matchup or a Canada game or a U.S. game, but really kind of a celebration of hockey.”

The weather last year, according to Collins, hurt the game. He said the change of the puck drop from 1 pm to prime time hurt because people planned to watch the game during the afternoon.

The idea of adding more outdoor games scares me a little. In my opinion, the game is already losing its luster after four years. The shock of watching a game being played from a baseball or football field is beginning to wain, so adding more games could water the product down.

Adding markets like St. Louis or Colorado is a good idea on paper, but if you ask a casual sports fan to watch a game between two teams he can’t name a single player on that doesn’t play in New York, Washington or Chicago is a gamble. Sure, hockey fans would watch, but lets be honest: this game wasn’t created for hockey fans. It was created to get new people watch and to grab the back-page the NHL loses out to day-after-day.

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Rangers Fall to Caps, End Streak At 5

December 28, 2011

Through 35 games this season, the Rangers have limited turnovers and kept the sloppy play at a minimum. Wednesday night in the nation’s capital, the first-place Rangers did neither in a second period they’d soon like to forget, as they gave up two goals to the Washington Capitals en route to a 4-1 defeat at Verizon Center.

After entering the period tied 1-1, turnovers by John Mitchell and Brad Richards led to two quick goals by Jeff Halpern and Alex Semin — who may have had his best game of the season — and the Rangers couldn’t recover.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the defense, I would say it’s some brain-dead plays at our blue line as far as turnovers,” coach John Tortorella said. “It’s unfortunate with Del Z (Michael Del Zotto), he loses the puck on the first one. But a turnover by Mitch (John Mitchell) and a turnover by Richie (Richards), not against their third- or- fourth-line, but against their top line. It kills us. That’s what’s frustrating.”

Tortorella said the team beat themselves, and he sure was right, as the turnovers led to goals and the team failed to capitalize on several powerplay opportunities throughout the night. The Capitals, to their credit, gave the Rangers little to work with all night.

Martin Biron suffered just his second loss of the season, as Tortorella continues to insert him into the lineup often to spell Henrik Lundqvist from playing 65-plus games a season in an attempt to keep him fresh for April and — hopefully — May and June. Although Biron didn’t play awful, he did give up several big rebounds, including one that led to the Capitals’ first goal in the first period.

If there was a bright-spot for the Rangers Wednesday night, it was Brandon Dubinsky scoring his second goal in three games, after going stretches over 15-plus games for his first two goals of the year.

The Rangers appeared to come within one goal in the third period after Ryan Callahan put home a rebound on the powerplay, but it was determined he kicked the puck into the net, negating the tally.

The loss bounced the Rangers out of first place, as the Boston Bruins defeated the Phoenix Coyotes. 

 


ESPN Does Not Acknowledge Death of Boogaard, Lokomotiv

December 27, 2011

According to several media outlets, including Yahoo.com’s Puck Daddy blog, ESPN SportCenter failed to include any of the three current or former NHL players, including Derek Boogaard, nor the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team that died in the plane crash in September in the show’s Year in Review In Memoriam.

Those mentioned in segment were Al Davis, Dan Wheldon, Hideki Irabu, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew and Joe Frazier.

Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski points out that maybe the way the three players passed away — partial suicide perhaps — but both Irabu and Dave Duerson both killed themselves.

Wyshynski continued by stating no hockey player on the list was a super star, but that doesn’t excuse ESPN by not including the Russian hockey team. With that said, each year the Academy Awards make mention of every last person to ever work on any movie who died that year.

That wasn’t the only thing the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” left the NHL out of, as Puck Daddy points out the NHL didn’t include rookie sensation Jeff Skinner in its “newcomers” section, the NHL’s realignment, Bobby Ryan‘s amazing goal against the Nashville Predators last season.

In ESPN’s defense, both Erik Johnson and Victor Hedman‘s goals on their own nets shared the No. 6 spot for this year’s goofs, while Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were featured kissing the Stanley Cup.

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