BRUCE BERLET REPORTS – MOVING FORWARD… AND DEFENSE

BY: Bruce Berlet

The parent New York Rangers recalled defenseman Brendan Bell from the Connecticut Whale Sunday.

Bell’s call-up came only hours after center Kris Newbury was summoned after getting a goal and two assists and being named the No. 2 star in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night. Newbury was leading the Whale (1-1-0-2) in goals (four), assists (four) and points (eight) while excelling on a line with newcomer Andre Deveaux and speedy rookie left wing Carl Hagelin, who had two third-period goals, including a brilliant shorthanded effort, and an assist against the Sound Tigers. In fact, the Hagelin-Newbury-Deveaux line combined for the Whale’s four goals plus four assists.

Newbury and Bell joined the Rangers for their four-game Western road trip that starts Tuesday night in Vancouver against the Canucks and former right wing Dale Weise, claimed off waivers by the Stanley Cup runners-up on Oct. 5 and scoreless and plus-1 in five games while playing limited minutes on the fourth line.

Bell had one assist in two games with the Whale after being assigned by the Rangers when they returned from Europe on Oct. 9. His departure indicates former Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman Michael Sauer isn’t ready to return from a shoulder injury despite not practicing last week. All-Star defenseman Marc Staal also remains out with lingering headaches from post-concussion syndrome, which necessitated the recall of rookie defenseman Tim Erixon two days after he was assigned to the Whale. And Jeff Woywitka made his Rangers debut Saturday night after being claimed off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens, so the Rangers need Bell as possible insurance in case of another injury.

On the bright side, the Whale have regained wing Mats Zuccarello, assigned to the Whale on Saturday night after the Rangers’ 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders in which John Tavares had a hat trick. Zuccarello was scoreless in limited ice time in three games with the Rangers (0-1-0-2) after splitting his rookie season with the Wolf Pack and Blueshirts, getting 19 goals and 33 assists in 78 games with the two teams. He was injured in the fourth game of the Calder Cup playoffs against the Portland Pirates but worked out extensively during the summer with Rangers center Brian Boyle and skating guru Barbara Underwood, helping earn him a spot on Broadway to start the season.

“I felt like I was improving,” Zuccarello told the Bergen Record after Saturday night’s game. “It’s hard to give me ice time. There’s a lot of players. I just have to go down and try my best and see what happens.”

The Whale also should be helped by the return of rookie left wing Ryan Bourque, who sat out Saturday night because of illness, and possibly defensemen Pavel Valentenko and/or Lee Baldwin, who have been nursing injuries. And left wing Sean Avery could be back from an injury that has prevented him from playing since his third and final preseason game in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Sept. 30. Avery, the Rangers’ final cut at forward after losing out to Erik Christensen for the 13th and final spot, cleared waivers and was assigned to the Whale on Oct. 5. He has been rehabbing but hasn’t skated with his new/old team. He had two goals and one assist in eight games with the Wolf Pack before rejoining the Blueshirts after he was claimed off waivers from the Dallas Stars on March 3, 2009.

The Whale, who has lost two-goal leads in each of their three losses, is off until Friday at 7 p.m. at the XL Center when they host the Manchester Monarchs (3-2-0-0), who lost 5-3 to the Springfield Falcons on Sunday as Ryan Russell, a 2005 Rangers’ draft pick, had two goals and former Wolf Pack captain Dane Byers scored one. They then play a home-and-home series with the Falcons (3-2-0-0), visiting the MassMutual Center in Springfield on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and then hosting the Falcons on Sunday at 3 p.m. Before the second game, Whale and Falcons fans will face off at noon in the first game of their inaugural seven-game series. For information on how to join the teams and tickets to the seven games, visit www.whalefalconsfangame@gmail.com.

Tickets for all Whale home games are on sale at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.ctwhale.com and through TicketMaster Charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000.

MESSIER TO RUN NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier has won six Stanley Cups, including the famous 1994 title as captain of the Rangers, ending a 54-year drought on Broadway. But the 50-year-old Messier might face his biggest athletic challenge ever on Nov. 6, when he runs the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

Messier, who is a special assistant to president and general manager Glen Sather, has been running different hilly roads and routes near his home in Greenwich, but that can’t completely prepare him for his first marathon covering 26.2 miles through New York City’s five boroughs. But he’ll have a special incentive as he’s running for the New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund and the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, which helps youngsters with cancer and serious blood disorders.

Former Rangers teammates Adam Graves and Mike Richter, along with Hockey Hall of Famer Pat Lafontaine, have previously completed the race, so the man known as one of – if not the – greatest leaders in sports history has a tough act to follow.

“It’s a huge challenge for me,” Messier said while announcing his intentions from the observatory atop the Empire State Building during an event for the New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. “I was never a runner when I trained to play hockey. This is something at 50 that has been a big challenge. Re-training all my muscles completely from skating has been a challenge. I don’t really have any goals, but I think finishing would be a tremendous feat for me.”

Messier has been training by himself after he researched the proper techniques for running and nutrition but said he mostly is doing it all by trial and error. He doesn’t use headphones when running because it would disrupt from the “deep contemplation” he feels when his legs are churning.

“It has been an incredible form of meditation for me, a great way to contemplate and jump inside your own head and just think,” Messier said. “That has been very gratifying for me. In a way it has been a 10-month prayer for these charities and thinking about how best to serve these charities over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.”

As much as the charities mean to him, Messier is also running for selfish reasons. He always told himself that at 50 he would try do something big. Twenty-six miles for a guy who isn’t a runner is pretty big.

“I still don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going to give it my best shot,” Messier said. “Sometimes you just have to turn to yourself when you want to do something big for charities like this. The way I could do that is by doing something for myself, and hopefully that alone is appealing enough for people to join along.”

Messier’s longest training run was 19 miles, but he is now scaling back in order to be at his best on race day.

“I felt like I could never take another step the rest of my life,” Messier said, adding he was pleased with how quickly he recovered. “My feet were sore, killing me. Every bone in my body ached.”

But if anyone can overcome a major obstacle, it’s Mark “I Guarantee It” Messier.

DARTMOUTH GRAD JOINS AHL STAFF

Michael Murray has been named AHL vice president of hockey operations, replacing Rod Pasma, who has accepted a position in the NHL’s hockey operations department. Murray, 31, a Dartmouth College grad who begins his duties later this month, will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the league’s hockey operations department, including management of the AHL’s officiating program, the league’s disciplinary process, player registry, scheduling and compliance with rules and regulations.

“We are excited and fortunate to be bringing Mike on board to lead our hockey operations department,” AHL president and CEO Dave Andrews said in a statement. “On behalf of our board of governors, I would like to welcome him to the American Hockey League and also thank Rod for his service and wish him all the best with the NHL.”

Murray joined the AHL after three seasons with the ECHL, where he most recently was vice president of hockey operations. An admitted member of the Massachusetts bar, Murray received his bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth, where he played varsity hockey for four years, and was awarded his Juris Doctor cum laude from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

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