Preseason Game 1: Rangers @ Devils

5:15 PM — Back in an NHL press box, and it feels SO good.  This is my first time in the Prudential Center press box since the end of April — I did cover the draft as well in June — and first time covering an actual NHL game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I missed this.

If you solely follow me for hockey, you might be curious to know what I’ve been doing with myself…and if you’re not, I’m telling you anyway.  I accepted a freelance position with MyCentralJersey.com to finish out the season as the beat writer for the independent Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots.  I got my start in 2003 in Somerset, and never really left, but this is the first time in a long time that the Patriots have been my main priority.

So, until their postseason is over, that will still be the case.  But the only conflicts would be with preseason games…I will be free to cover the regular season as I normally would.

Anyway, you’re probably here for news.  So.  Here’s some.  Just wanted to confirm the Rangers playing roster for today, which was initially reported by the Rangers beat crew yesterday…the only question mark was whether Stu Bickel (back) or Dylan McIlrath would be in the lineup, but it will be Bickel as one of the 18 skaters dressed tonight.

NEW YORK RANGERS ROSTER, 9/16/2013

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist
Cam Talbot

Defensemen

Michael Del Zotto
John Moore
Marc Staal
Stu Bickel
Justin Falk
Aaron Johnson

Forwards

Darroll Powe
Brad Richards
Chris Kreider
Brian Boyle
Ryan Bourque
Dominic Moore
Marek Hrivik
Brandon Mashinter
Arron Asham
Danny Kristo
Rick Nash
Shawn O’Donnell

Goaltender Cory Schneider is excited about making his debut with the Devils following an offseason trade (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Goaltender Cory Schneider is excited about making his debut with the Devils following an offseason trade (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

NEWARK — This is the day.  This is when everything will finally hit home for Cory Schneider.

The 27-year-old was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils in a blockbuster trade on draft day, but even after all the photo shoots and the practices at training camp, today is the day where he’ll put on that red, black and white jersey for the first time in game action.

“Until you start playing the games, it doesn’t feel real,” he said.  “I think when you go and play with guys and play with your teammates and you sort of compete for each other, it helps build those bonds and build those friendships.  I think this will be a good start, and we’re all excited to get going here.”

Keith Kinkaid will back Schneider up tonight, but Devils coach Pete DeBoer told reporters this morning that he isn’t sure if Schneider will play the whole game.  Just in general from speaking with DeBoer, it doesn’t seem like his quartet of young goalies — Anthony Brodeur, Maxime Clermont, Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood — will get many meaningful opportunities for playing time this preseason.

“(Goaltending is) one area that I’m not looking at evaluating,” DeBoer said.  “We’ve got our two goalies, so it’s getting them both ready for the first game of the season.  If it happens that we can get some young guys in net for some short periods, that would be a bonus.  But that’s not our mindset right now, it’s we’re doing whatever we have to make sure Brodeur and Schneider are comfortable for game one.”

Devils forward Reid Boucher will be playing in his first ever NHL preseason game tonight, and there will be many eyes on a young man who many feel has a very real chance to make this club out of camp.

“It’s very exciting, it’s my first NHL anything,” said Boucher, whose mother and brother will be in attendance at the Prudential Center.  “Hopefully I can perform tonight and play well.”

Boucher, just 20 years old, broke Steven Stamkos’ record with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting for goals in a season by lighting the lamp a whopping 62 times last season, and he added three more tallies in an 11-game stint in the AHL with Albany as well.  The time may very well be now for Boucher, but the next two weeks will play a large role in if that will ultimately be the case.

Boucher told me that he did extensive work on his conditioning and added some muscle this offseason, and seems confident that he’s put himself in position to win an NHL job.

“I just have to perform to my abilities, and hopefully they’ll give me a chance,” he said.  “But, I’ll leave the decision up to them and just play hockey…(the next two weeks) are pretty important.  If I perform to my abilities, maybe it can persuade them on their decision.  I’m not going to be pressing overly, obviously I want to go out and do well.  I just have to stick to my game, and can’t go outside of that.”

The next two weeks also loom large for defenseman Eric Gelinas, who would appear to be on the outside looking in when it comes to securing a job on the Devils blueline.

New Jersey’s second round draft pick in 2009, the 22-year-old made his NHL debut on April 25 last season, collecting one shot on goal in 15:59 of ice time against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think it gave me a chance to prove myself last year, but this year is a new year,” he said.  “There’s a lot of competition with young defensemen trying to make this team.  It’s up to me to figure out the way to prove that I belong here.  I have to show them I can play, and that’s what I’m focusing on during this camp.”

Like Boucher, he says he made some improvements to his game in the offseason as well, saying he got stronger and gained several pounds this summer and worked on his footwork as well.

“I think I really improved and am more mature,” Gelinas said.

Expected lines for tonight’s preseason game against New York

Pesonen-Henrique-Bernier
Olesz-Loktionov-Tedenby
Boucher-Josefson-Sislo
Barch-D. Zajac-Janssen

Volchenkov-Fayne
Gelinas-Harrold
Urbom-Larsson

Schneider
Kinkaid

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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