Forwards Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller were both expected to make the New York Rangers squad coming out of training camp. As young players, both could have taken the demotion to play in the AHL poorly and sulked. There have certainly been a plethora of those. Anyone remember how Sean Avery took it? But with Rangers Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton and Director of Professional Scouting, Kevin Maxwell and a gaggle of other scouts in the XL Center Sunday afternoon, the two young men sent a loud and clear message that they are going to make a strong push to be back with the Rangers in the NHL sooner, rather than later.
J.T. Miller, who was returned to the Wolf Pack on Friday afternoon and was scratched for Saturday’s Norfolk Admirals game, made his presence felt immediately in Sunday’s 4-3 victory at the XL Center over the visiting Albany Devils.
After taking an early 1-0 lead on Scott Timmins‘ deflection of a Jon Merrill shot from the right point just 51 seconds into the game, Miller came out and was a force from his first shift. At 9:13 Miller would get his first of three points on the night (2g, 1a). Miller tried making a pass from low in the right corner out to the point, but the puck hit the skate of Cam Janssen and went perfectly to Brandon Mashinter in the low slot. Mashinter put a backhander on Kincaid, but the puck was still alive in the crease. Andrew Yogan, crashing the net, found the puck and Kincaid made a strong arm save and the puck slid out to the left side where Miller whacked it home.
Miller followed that up with an assist on Kreider’s power play goal when his shot from the right side bounced out to Kreider who backhanded it, burying it in the Devil’s net.
He was not through for the night either.
Ryan Bourque made the best play of the game when he dove out with his stick at the right point to keep a fast moving puck in the Devil’s zone. Bourque then fought off a defender on the boards and made an amazing pass across from the right half-boards to a WIDE open Miller in front of Kincaid. Bourque’s tape-to-tape pass was so perfect that it navigated through traffic and landed right on Miller’s stick. Miller, easily, beat Kincaird to knot the score then at 3-3.
Strong defense in his own zone including blocking shots, making strong decisions with the puck and a physical game as well, Miller was clearly and well deserving of the first star of the game status that he was awarded.
The game’s second star, Kreider, who had a strong first game on Saturday against the Norfolk Admirals, continued his dominant play on Sunday afternoon and elevated it. Kreider demonstrated all the things that the Rangers expected of him when they brought him into their fold when he was drafted in the first round, 19th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. On Saturday night he registered an assist on Darroll Powe’s game tying goal with just .4 of a second remaining as well as seven shots on goal.
Kreider was everywhere. He scored his first goal of the season to give the Wolf Pack their first lead on the power play. He took two shots, one that wound up in the net and the other that rang off the post on a rush where he blew by the Devils defender.
He made a strong play to tie up Merrill while screening goaltender Keith Kincaid on Dylan McIlrath‘s game winner and he was physical on the ice; demonstrated flashes of that speed that he’s so closely associated with and was noticeable on every shift he took on the ice.
When you review the video’s (or audio) of the comments made by Head Coach Ken Gernander or the players made of each other, it’s more than evident they have something to prove…not only to the Rangers, but themselves. Both are playing with confidence that is growing all the time. Both are starting to truly believe in their talent and when the consistency arrives, which it looks like it will, the Rangers will have some decisions to make…not whether to play these talented forwards, but who they’re going to send out in order to make room for them.
Ranger’s management and scouts, Wolf Pack and Rangers’ fans alike, will be watching these young men closely. If they can raise their level of play even further and stay consistent at it, don’t expect to see them in Connecticut’s state capitol for very long.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
Michael Haley – Darroll Powe – Michael Kantor
Chris Kreider – Oscar Lindberg – Danny Kristo
Brandon Mashinter – J.T. Miller – Andrew Yogan
Ryan Bourque – Kyle Jean – Marek Hrivik
Dylan McIlrath – Aaron Johnson
Tommy Hughes – Danny Syvret
Conor Allen – Stu Bickel
(Captain – Assistant Captains)
Brodie Dupont – Healthy Scratch
Scott Stacjer – Injured
Shawn O’Donnell – Healthy
Brendon Nash – Healthy
1. HFD – J. Miller
2. HFD – C. Kreider
3. ALB – J. Merrill
T.J. Luxmore (49)
Mike Baker (11)
Paul Simeon (66)
Friday October 11th at 7pm when the Adirondack Phantoms visit the XL Center.
Albany Devils 3 at Hartford Wolf Pack 4 – Status: Final
Sunday, October 6, 2013 – XL Center
Albany 2 1 0 – 3
Hartford 2 1 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Albany, Timmins 1 (Merrill, Whitney), 0:51. 2, Hartford, Miller 1 (Yogan, Mashinter), 9:13. 3, Hartford, Kreider 1 (Miller, Kristo), 14:00 (PP). 4, Albany, Wohlberg 1 (Pesonen, Merrill), 18:57. Penalties-McPherson Alb (cross-checking), 13:38; Pelley Alb (cross-checking), 19:42.
2nd Period-5, Albany, Whitney 1 (Merrill), 2:31 (PP). 6, Hartford, Miller 2 (Bourque), 19:02. Penalties-Johnson Hfd (tripping), 1:17; Miller Hfd (tripping), 8:27; Pesonen Alb (roughing), 13:35; served by Whitney Alb (bench minor – too many men), 19:39.
3rd Period-7, Hartford, McIlrath 1 (Johnson, Kristo), 4:36. Penalties-served by Yogan Hfd (bench minor – too many men), 11:28.
Shots on Goal-Albany 9-8-9-26. Hartford 7-9-6-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Albany 1 / 3; Hartford 1 / 4.
Goalies-Albany, Kinkaid 0-1-0 (22 shots-18 saves). Hartford, Missiaen 1-0-0 (26 shots-23 saves).
Referees-T.J. Luxmore (49).
Linesmen-Mike Baker (11), Paul Simeon (66).