NY Sports Day

Competition on the Blue Line Heats Up

NEW YORK – Here’s the tricky math John Tortorella has to go though. How do you divide four by three?

You see, there are three spots open on defense and four very good candidates. There’s just so much room to go around.

And after tonight’s 3-2 Ranger win over the Detroit Red Wings, the decision’s are getting harder and harder.

So how’s the Blue Line Lottery going?

“It’s going,” Tortorella said. “[Alexi] Semenov had another good night tonight. I thought he did well. I thought it was good for [Matt] Gilroy and [Mike] Del Zotto to feel the heat from Detroit’s sticks. The next game, you will see more NHLers.

“So how it’s going? It’s going. I don’t know what the six ‘D’ will be.”

Right now Bobby Sanguinetti is in competition with Semenov, Gilroy and Del Zotto. Although there are two starting spots open, you would figure Tortorella will take seven defenseman with him to start the season.

Among them you can probably pencil in Gilroy, the 25 year-old rookie from North Bellmore, who was Hobie Baker Award winner last year. He has played every game and looks ready for the NHL, scoring a goal and an assist for a plus-three this preseason.

Yet, he is not a lock and Gilroy is not taking any chances, but he is an offensive defenseman, which is what the team has been craving since Brian Leetch was traded before the lockout.

“When I play with [Marc] Staal or [Wade] Redden, they just let me go,” Gilroy said. “Their game is to stay back and I play up. They cover for me. They have been willing to let me go, which is nice and they don’t yell at me if I caught up. I work well with them I think and I get more and more comfortable each game.

Also fighting for a spot is Semenov. The 28 year-old on a tryout with the Rangers seems to have put himself on the radar. With two assists this preseason, the former San Jose Shark is plus-4 and is fast securing a slot.

That would leave one slot open. In a perfect world, the Rangers could correct a mistake if they took the wrong player, but Del Zotto is only 19 and if he gets sent down, the team loses him to juniors for the whole season. He looks very good on the offensive end, although his defense is left to be desired.

The main thing, though, is that he out played Sanguinetti, another former first round pick. Yet, the decision is going to be a tough one.

“We have to weigh what is the best development for him,” Tortorella said. “He is stating the case. He made a few mistakes but we have to live with that. But he is stating a case.”

Del Zotto is taking it in stride, knowing this is house money if he makes the team. The Rangers, though, could take him and then cut him after nine games, so they have a longer look with the rookie.

The young defenseman is not having too many hopes, though and said, “You take it a day at a time. Whatever happens, happens.”

Sounds like an attitude Tortorella really likes.


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