Two players supposedly ticketed for Hartford, goalie Jean-Francois Labbe and center Mike York, may remain with the Rangers longer than anticipated. “Labbe has been terrific. He’s playing the way we thought he would all last season,” Maloney said. “[Kirk] McLean is on a big ticket [two years, $1.7 million plus incentives], but Labbe is really pushing for that No. 2 spot behind [Mike] Richter.” York, who played three games with the Wolf Pack last season after being runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award at Michigan State, could stay as a third or fourth center. “He’s making it really hard for the Rangers to keep him off the roster,” Don Maloney stated after the Baby Rangers played in South Windsor, CT before a standing room only crowd of 1,100 at South Windsor Arena.
Tough defender Dale Purinton received a five minute major and a game misconduct for high sticking. Although slight on skills Purinon may return to New York this season as the Rangers and Coach Muckler are searching for a tough player. The 6-2 220lb defenseman recorded 1 goal and 3 assists and 401 penalty minutes in the last 61 games covering 2 seasons. The Wolf Pack went on to defeat the Worcester Ice Cats and former Yale Goalie Alex Westlund 5-4 on a goal from Brad Smyth. David Oliver (6-2 205) (one goal) and Richard Scott were noted as the best players. Goalie Jason Labarbera made 17 saves and back up Jeff Heil kicked out 15 of 18.
All quiet on the Brendl front After Coach Muckler noted that Pavel Brendl was by no means a lock for the roster and may see the season back at Calgary all has been quiet on the rookie watch.
After the Rangers win (3-2) over the expansion Thrashers on goals by Petr Nedved, Adam Graves and Valeri Kamensky, rookie Tomas Kloucek(assist) was mentioned as a standout player. Kloucek is currently battling soon to be a lock Swede Kim Johnsson and tough Jason Doig for the final spots on defense. Kloucek a stay at home defenseman is playing well enough even with his slight build to possible warrant an extended stay in New York. Overshadowing Kloucek has been Swede Kim Johnsson who has been playing superb technical hockey. After a strong showing at the Worlds in Norway wtinessed by General Manager Neil Smith, Johnsson may have yet moved up to the 2nd pairing with Stephan Quintal whom he has been partnered with this exhibition season. Although many think Quintal-Leetch is more favorable Johnsson has been playing extremely well with the 235 lb Quintal on his side. Matthieu Schneider has been working with Leetch but it is hard to imagine the two offensive minded defenseman, both under 6.00 to be partnered.
Other strong performers have been Jan Hlavac and Mike Knuble as well as the aforementioned Labbe, York, Johnsson and Kloucek.
Former Rangers Mark Tinordi and Ulf Samuelsson lead a list of NHL regulars on the unemployment line. Samulesson spent most of last season with the Rangers before being dealt to Detroit. Samuelsson at the time was considered the best defender on the Rangers blue line. The former Ranger has played for Hartford and Pittsburgh before the Rangers and Detroit. It is likely he will fill a hole after the waiver draft at the beginning of the season, for a club in need of a tough defenseman, Nashville, Washington, Florida and even San Jose are possible hosts, the same for Mark Tinordi.
(Quotes from the Hartford Courant)