When the Rangers reported to practice Tuesday at the MSG Training Center two new faces greeted the players in the dressing room, while another familiar pair were not present. Goaltender Cam Talbot and former first round pick J.T. Miller were officially recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack on Tuesday morning, while veterans Martin Biron and Arron Asham were assigned to the Wolf Pack.
The four personnel moves were set in motion on Monday when the Rangers decided to place both Biron and Asham on waivers. Later that afternoon Talbot and Miller were informed they were being recalled by the Blueshirts, and the pair drove from Hartford to Westchester in order to join the team before practice and its trip to Washington Tuesday afternoon.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to be up here and to be in this locker room during the regular season," said Talbot, who had a very strong training camp before being sent back to the Wolf Pack. "I am happy to be on the big club and will try and give the guys a chance to win whenever I am in there. Hopefully when I get my chance I will do my best out there."
Technically this is not Talbot's first call-up from the minor leagues. On February 28, 2011 Talbot, then a rookie pro, was recalled from Greenville in the ECHL to serve as Henrik Lundqvist's back-up because Biron was felled by a virus. Since then the 26 year-old netminder has made his mark in the American Hockey League, standing out last year by appearing in a career-high 55 games.
"With the goaltender position I trust (Rangers Goaltending Coach) Benoit Allaire...and for quite some time he's been saying (Talbot) is ready to take the next step," head coach Alain Vigneault said of Talbot on Tuesday. "We gave him some games (in the pre-season) and he played well. A couple of days ago we made the decision to make a change there (with the back-up goalie position)."
Talbot will have big shoes to fill in replacing the 14-year NHL veteran Biron, who not only formed a solid tandem the past three seasons with Lundqvist, but who has always been an extremely popular teammate. The intelligent, calm, and confident Talbot should fit right in, as he impressed Lundqvist and others both on, and off, the ice during training camp.
"I just want to keep working hard, and keep developing," stated the even-keeled Talbot. "Everything happened so quickly yesterday...it really hasn't had a chance to sink in yet, but hopefully in the next couple of days I'll be able to take some time to enjoy it."
As for the 20 year-old Miller, he made the Rangers roster following training camp and logged 11:58 worth of ice time on opening night in Phoenix. After being sent down to Hartford following that game, Miller has played extremely well in the AHL---potting four goals in three games with the Wolf Pack, tying him for the league lead at the time of his recall.
Miller skated on the fourth line during Tuesday's practice with Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett; but when the team worked on special teams play, Miller skated on the Rangers' second power play unit.
"I see (Miller) with a good skill-set, some offensive potential," Vigneault said of the 2013 AHL All Star. "We have some players right now that are getting a real good opportunity to show what they can do with Top Six forward minutes and power play time, and some guys production is not where it needs to be. (Miller) would be one of the possibilities moving up there if people don't start to produce."
Neither Biron nor Asham was at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday. Both cleared waivers and were assigned by the team to Hartford. Asham stated on Monday that he would report to the Wolf Pack, work hard, and had no ill will at all towards the organization, instead understanding why the decision was made.
Biron, who said Monday he was not shocked by the Rangers' decision considering his struggles at the start of this season, will take a few days to decide his future. When asked if he would consider retiring, Biron was non-committal on Monday.
"I think there are many options ahead of me," Biron stated Monday. "It's not the best-case scenario obviously, but I am going to figure it all out. This is not a fun feeling. It's not something I've had to experience in my career. Did I see this coming? It was something in the back of my mind."
Vigneault stated after practice that with the team carrying only 12 forwards with Rick Nash injured that he would evaluate whether or not to bring another player up from Hartford to fill out the roster some more.