When the New York Rangers opened training camp last week much of the talk surrounding the battle(s) to fill out the defensive corps revolved around Tim Erixon, Michael Del Zotto and to a lesser extent Pavel Valentenko. After two preseason games the best defender that was not a New York Ranger when last season ended has been Brendan Bell. Erixon has played scared for the better part of two games. Del Zotto has had moments of very good things, but seems to manage to match them with many of the same mistakes that cost him his spot last season. As for Valentenko, he looked overmatched last night in New Jersey.
All of these things have left an opening for Bell and he is working his way through the door. Bell has not been spectacular in either game, but of the group he has been the steadiest. In Albany he did not look out of place early when paired with Dan Girardi and against the Devils last night other than a gaffe on the first goal he was solid again. Given the uncertainty surrounding Marc Staal and his health status the Rangers would love to have a more experienced defender, though most of Bell’s experience is AHL, be able to be in the lineup. The big things working in Bell’s favor are his steady play in his own zone and his willingness to shoot the puck. Bell is by no means a lock to make the team as the Rangers would likely rather have Erixon and/or Del Zotto win these spots outright, but as long as the young players continue to just get by in games there is an opportunity for Bell to claim it away. His biggest competition, right now, might actually be Dylan McIlrath, but not sure the Rangers want to bring him up just yet.