NEW YORK – Petr Nedved’s long shot chances at a comeback with the New York Rangers got a bit of a boost.
The 36-year-old forward, who hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2006-07 season, scored a first-period goal Monday night in the Rangers’ 2-1 pre-season victory over the Ottawa Senators in front of a sparse crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Facing an uphill battle to earn a roster spot with the Rangers, Nedved staked New York to a 1-0 lead 5:17 into the first period when his snap shot from the left circle past Ottawa goalie Alex Auld.
Nedved, hoping to have a third stint with the Rangers despite numerous forwards ahead of him on the depth chart, asked to be invited to camp in an attempt to get back into the NHL following a season playing with Sparta Praha in his native Czech Republic.
With six exhibition games in eight days before they head to Prague to open the regular season, the Rangers agreed to have Nedved rejoin them.
“Surely when I left I wasn’t expecting to be coming back,” said Nedved, the game’s first star. “It is so nice to be back in the National Hockey League. It’s just an exhibition game, but I was nervous before the game to the point that I didn’t know what to expect.”
If Nedved doesn’t make the team, he intends to return to his hometown team Liberec in the Czech League. During his two tours with the Rangers, first for the 1994-95 season and then from 1998-2004, Nedved had 149 goals and 202 assists in 478 games.
“Hopefully I will build on this and take it to the next game,” Nedved said. “I didn’t come to a team that I never played for, so I feel so comfortable.”
In his last season in North America, Nedved had two goals and 10 assists in 40 NHL games with Philadelphia and Edmonton. He also spent time that year with Philadelphia of the AHL.
“That’s his first game so I’m not going to draw any conclusions,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “Like a lot of others, he’s involved in a process and we’re smack dab in the middle of it. We’ll give him credit for a good game and get ready for the next one.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s something that has to be consistent – at least the chances – and playing a good two-way game and being an influential player for all the right reasons.”
New York – which had 15 shots in each of the first two periods – is going with basically a split-squad this week due to the heavy game workload. The Rangers opened the pre-season with a 3-2 loss at Ottawa on Saturday, and only four players dressed for the rematch.
Brandon Dubinsky, who scored 14 goals last season as a rookie, was one of those seeing double duty. He earned the secondary assist on Lauri Korpikoski’s goal that made it 2-0 with 25.4 seconds left in the middle period.
Dubinsky scored both Rangers goals in Saturday’s loss at Ottawa.
Dean McAmmond took a beautiful feed in front former Rangers forward Brad Isbister, who streaked up the left wing with the puck, and scored past New York backup goalie Matt Zaba with 10:20 remaining. That trimmed the Senators’ deficit to 2-1.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist was perfect in his first pre-season appearance, stopping five shots in the first period and seven in the second before resting in the third. Ottawa counterpart Alex Auld stopped 28 of 30 shots in his 40 minutes of work before giving way to Jeff Glass for the third period.
Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher, who all scored Saturday night for Ottawa, didn’t make the trip to New York – nor did goalie Martin Gerber.
“We didn’t bring a team of scorers and skilled guys, but there is some skill there,” Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said. “We brought some guys that their roles on the team would be more defensive, and more of a defensive mind-set is what they should have had.”
Former Senators defenceman Wade Redden, who left Ottawa for a six-year, US$39 million deal, made his Rangers debut along with forward Markus Naslund – New York’s other big free-agent acquisition this summer.
“I don’t know if it was more weird being here for the first time wearing this (uniform) or playing against that one,” Redden said. “I got them both out of the way.”