Brendl Sick as Rangers` Camp Opens

By Evan Andriopoulos

New York Rangers camp opened yesterday in Burlington, Vermont. Noticeably less than 100% was top prospect and Rangers projected star of the next
decade Pavel Brendl. Brendl awoke Sunday morning with the same stomach flu
that has bothered him for nearly three days but he decided to lace èm up to
show Rangers Management what he could do….. which was with the flu not
much other than fall down during off ice training and go no where near the
net during on ice drills. Even with the excuse of flu many are a little
more concerned that Brendl may have not locked up that guaranteed roster spot that was handed to him on draft day.

General Manager Neil Smith was quoted at camp saying
“I have to admit that for a moment I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what if he’s not
sick? But the fact is, he is sick and, actually, I was surprised that he
even was out there”. Veteran Adam Graves has been assigned as Brendl`s
roommate, a move that they hope will help motivate him away from the puck
and ice.

During the first scrimmage Coach Muckler was asked about a kid line
featuring Malhotra, Hlavac and Brendl, Muckler responded that this is
possible but not probable as Brendl may open the season on the much
vaunted no.4 line.

After the first day of camp standouts featured the newly signed (2 year
1.45m dollar) Mike Knuble in addition to Swedish Import Kim Johnsson,
Valeri
Kamensky, and rookie Mike York. During camp tempers flared a
bit as Theoren Fleury “unintentionally as he stated” kicked out the skates
of behemoth defenseman Peter Popovic thus officially beginning the new era
with Theoren Fleury in town.

Center Tim Taylor had his appendix removed Sunday, the Rangers first day of
on ice training. Taylor signed a four year contract with the Rangers in
July, complained of pain in his side Sunday morning. Surgery was successful
and performed at a local hospital. Taylor has been listed as day to day and
is expected to join the Rangers on ice in approximately 2 weeks.

News and Notes:

The Rangers defense with the retirement of Jeff Beukeboom, trade of Ulf
Samuelsson, loss via expansion draft of Chris Tamer was significantly
weakend in the physical department. Many have hoped that Jason Doig can
step
up and bang around his 6.2 215 frame. However, Doig is still unsigned, as is
Rangers physical banger Rmun Ndur. Neither are allowed in camp until they have
agreed to new contracts.

With the key off season signings of big Stephane
Quintal(looks to be Brian Leetch`s partner) and Stephane Lefebvre the
Rangers look to have a better defense than last season even without the two
bangers. Many eyes are setting sights on Brian Leetch`s to have yet another strong
season and Matthieu Schneider to carry the offensive load on defense.
Swedish player Peter Popovic, needs to step up his physical
aspect of the game, and newly imported Kim Johnsson also must show his
we-Learned skills that made him such a dominant player at the 1999 World`s in Norway.
Johnsson had a strong opening camp in Vt and looks to land at the no.4 or 5
spot for the start of the season.

Rookies Burke Henry and Wes Jarvis both have an equal shot at making the
club are fighting for the 6 spot and reserve spot. Both of their chances have increased with the absence of Doig and Ndur. With the loss of Brent
Thompson
via free agency, newly signed Terry Virtue looks to surplant Thompson in
Hartford, perhaps gaining a shot at the no.7 spot in NY. However it is not
likely.

In summary, the Rangers defense is better but it lacks the character
players
such as Samuelsson and Beukeboom and to an extent Tamer, whom showed some
heart late in the season. Leetch and Schneider are both required to have
solid 2 way seasons with no less than 70pts(Leetch) and 50pts(Schneider).
Newly signed Quintal, Lefebrve and Kim Johnsson need to step up, hit and
produce some offense(25pts) for the Rangers to protect Mike Richter against
the onslaught of huge NHL power forwards. Without Doig whom by no means is
guaranteed a spot or Ndur(same), the Rangers kids Jarvis and Henry both
must earn a position or Management may have to take a look at Mark
Tinordi and Ulf Samuelsson as possible additions to stabilize the defense.

Goaltending for now and the future is a spot where some moves have been
made. Mike Richter was crowned the Rangers goalie for now, and for some of the
future. He needs to have a 1994 type season, even behind the physically challenged defense. In order for the Rangers to compete for the 5 – 8 playoff spot Richter can not have many off nites. At no. 2 is capable veteran Kirk
McLean whom played in the memorable 1994 Stanley Cup Finals against the
same
Mike Richter. Challenging McLean will be Czech and Swede Imports Milan
Hnilinka, whom dominated the Worlds in Norway(May 1999) and Johan Holmqvist, who many believe will be the next great Swedish NHL goalie. Along
with Jason Labarbera, Holmqvist and Hnilinka look to fill the roster in
Hartford(AHL). In summary…a strong run of goalies will help the Rangers
forget about Daniel Cloutier…. We hope!

Camp reports will be published as news warrants.