The Rangers’ roster of prospects dropped its second game at the Traverse City tournament, but not before generating a little buzz Saturday with a dramatic 5-4 win over Columbus in its tourney opener.
Evgeny Grachev scored the game-winner with just over six seconds remaining, converting on a set play from an offensive zone faceoff win by center Derek Stepan. It was the perfect capper to a game in which the baby Blueshirts’ top line of Stepan, Grachev and left wing Ryan Bourque accounted for four of five Rangers’ goals and eight of 10 points.
The game-winner was Grachev’s second goal on the night, while Stepan put the Rangers on the board just over midway through the first period. Bourque added a power-play tally in the second after RW Christian Thomas pocketed an unassisted goal to start the period.
Sunday’s game didn’t lack for drama, but the Rangers failed to get a positive result, watching Carolina Hurricanes prospect Zac Dalpe score the game’s only goal with under a minute left. Netminder Mike Murphy (sixth-round, 2008 entry draft) stopped all of the Rangers’ 33 shots to steal the 1-0 win.
Cam Talbot, a University of Alabama at Huntsville product, stopped 25 of 26 shots for the Rangers.
The split leaves the Rangers among four teams with a 1-1 record (Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas), trailing undefeated Minnesota. Detroit’s squad stands at 1-0-1 with an overtime loss to Tampa Bay. The Rangers skate at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday against the unblemished Wild. You can follow the game here.
Garnet Exelby has joined the Rangers for a tryout, adding to what promises to be a very interesting blue line battle in camp. Assuming Marc Staal signs, you would figure that between Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi and Michal Rozsival four spots are already locked up. That leaves Matt Gilroy, Ryan McDonagh, Steve Eminger, Exelby and Alexei Semenov (also invited for a tryout) among those slugging it out with the salary-cap handicapped Wade Redden for the final two spots. Given the back log, it seems there’s no chance McIlrath will make his Blueshirts’ debut this season, though that’s hardly uncommon for defensive prospects.
The Record’s Andrew Gross breaks down the camp battle building at center.