Different day here at the MSG Training Center. Assistant GM/interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld led a split squad with the on-ice session with coach John Tortorella guided the off-ice meetings. Many of Schoenfeld's drills, as he described later, were about breaking down the shooting process to make incremental improvements.
For instance, goalies Steve Valiquette and the local guy from Manhattanville they bring in when Henrik Lundqvist is not on the ice literally lay on their sides along the goal line, pads stacked, gloves extended up, forcing the players to shoot high. Another problem, Schoenfeld said, is it is one thing to say the players have to crash the net. Problem is, too many of the Rangers are actually getting too close to the net, leaving no openings to shoot. So Schoenfeld had them look at the situation from a different perspective. Literally. Lying down to visualize what the puck sees as it travels toward the net.
The groups were broken up by playing time in last night's 2-1 loss to the Panthers. Essentially if you played more than 15 minutes or so, you were off the ice today.
By my count...
On the ice: Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Dmitri Kalinin, Fredrik Sjostrom, Mark Bell, Erik Reitz, Paul Mara, Aaron Voros, Blair Betts, Lauri Korpikoski, Colton Orr, Valiquette, dude from Manhattanville who plays goal when Lundqvist is off the ice.
Off the ice: Lundqvist (hence the dude from Manhattanville...), Dan Girardi, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky.
And when players didn't complete the drill the way Schoenfeld wanted, say by missing the net on a shooting drill, there were pushups to be done.
Also, caught up to Mark Bell for the first time, who joked that he's walked past John Tortorella a few times but still has not really met his new coach, just as Torts had to ask during his pre-game press conference Thursday whether Bell had actually been on the charter flight home.
Bell obviously skated today but has not been given any clue as to whether he'll remain with the Rangers or be put on waivers in an attempt to send him to Hartford (AHL).
"I was hopefuly it would happen and it did," Bell said of the Maple Leafs exposing him to re-entry waivers. "I'm thankful the Rangers picked me up. I just want to make the most of the opportunity given to me, whether it's big or small."
Obviously, it's been a frustrating season for the 28-year-old Bell, who's spent in with the Maple Leafs' AHL squad (also based in Toronto), after being the eighth overall pick in the 1998 draft and playing in the NHL with the Blackhawks, Sharks and Maple Leafs.
"I think the most frustrating part was I trained really hard last summer. But in seemed in training camp I was on the outside looking in. It was a bitter pill to swallow for me. I went to the minor leagues and worked on every part of the game to become a better player."
Bell said he's not sure what his presence means in relation to the Rangers potentially trying to claim Sean Avery, also a left wing, if the Dallas Stars put him on re-entry waivers.
"I try not to think about all that stuff," Bell said. "I'm just kind of looking at myself and what I can do."
Bell is very familiar with Avery. He said they went through repeated battles in their four years of playing junior hockey against each other.