The New York Rangers have a series of battles going on to make the 2011-12 opening night roster and amongst those competing for a spot is Mats Zuccarello. With Gaborik, Richards, Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, Prust, Boyle, Stepan, Fedotenko, Rupp, and Wolski seemingly locked on the roster there are only 1 or 2 spots to be had up front. Zuccarello got some good news yesterday when he was selected to practice with all of those expected to make the Rangers forward core when they open Oct. 7 against the Kings. Even with that reinforcement, Larry Brooks, of the New York Post, is reporting this morning that Zuccarello is taking nothing for granted.
"Sure, it shows confidence from the coaches to be in this group now, but there is a long way before the first game and we have a lot of players fighting for spots on the roster, so I know I have to earn a position and keep showing that I want it and am willing to work hard for it, which I am.
"Nothing is handed to you. I completely understand that."That attitude is exactly what coach John Tortorella expects from everyone on the team and if Zuccarello does make the team it will because he took that approach and that he continues to play at the level he has thus far in camp.
"Zuke is in competition like a number of guys," the coach said. "He's played very well, he makes [subtle] plays that can go unnoticed, small plays in small areas of the ice, but he's still in a competition.
"He's in there now, but it could change."Those are certainly encouraging words from Tortorella, but still show a similar lack of commitment to the Norweigan's future that Tortorella had when asked about how long Zuccarello would be on the team last season.
Zuccarello’s 42 games with the Rangers, in which he recorded 23 points should help him in the competition, but his $1.75 mil cap hit does have some negative impact on his standing. The Rangers do have the space for him if either Erik Christensen or Sean Avery get cut before the start of the season. The other key in terms of Zuccarello’s standing on the team might be what the team ultimately decides to do with Derek Stepan. There are still questions as to whether Stepan will play center or left wing this season and a move to the wing for Stepan, especially with Gaborik and Richards, would change the dynamic of the Rangers lower lines and possibly cost Zuccarello.