Semenov grateful for another shot

Notebook: Russian blueliner returns to camp as invite; Exelby here, too

Wednesday, 09.15.2010 / 9:54 PM / News
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Semenov grateful for another shot
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Rangers Training Camp Roster

By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

A year ago at this time, veteran defenseman Alexei Semenov was in the midst of training camp with the Rangers as an unsigned invitee. After an impressive camp and exhibition season, the 6-foot-6 Semenov seemed on the verge of signing a contract with the Blueshirts.

But when opening night in Pittsburgh arrived, Semenov was on his way back to Russia to play for Moscow Dynamo in the KHL, a decision he made with family in mind.

Now, as the Rangers get set to open up their 2010-11 training camp on Friday, Semenov is back where he was a year ago, trying to make the team off a camp invite.

Invited to training camp for the second straight year, defenseman Alexei Semenov is looking to make the same sort of positive impression on the coaching staff that almost landed him on the 2009-10 team.
“I really wanted to sign last year, that was my big goal,” said Semenov, who has 211 games of NHL experience. “But it didn’t quite work out, so I have another chance here and, hopefully, it’s going to be the year for me to sign with this team because they have such an unbelievable group of guys and coaching staff.”

Semenov, who spent part of his summer working out in New York, had a contract to play another season with Moscow Dynamo this year, but it became null and void when the team unexpectedly folded and merged with another KHL franchise during the off-season. So Semenov became a free agent again; and his Dynamo teammate, Rangers defense prospect Pavel Valentenko, was free to sign with the Blueshirts, who had obtained his rights from Montreal as part of the 2009 trade of Scott Gomez.

“Hopefully there is no Plan B for me this year,” said Semenov, 29. “There are so many good young players over here, so you have to compete every minute, every chance out there. I will show what I’ve got and haven’t looked too far ahead. This is where I want to be.”

Semenov, who has played for the Oilers, Panthers, and Sharks during his NHL career, is hoping that his physical style of play will compliment the other Rangers defensemen and, perhaps, a fill a void for the team this season.

“They physical game has always been a part of my game,” said Semenov. “I can play an offensive role, too, but am very comfortable being physical.”

Exelby also in the running at training camp

Another physical veteran defenseman trying to earn a spot on the Rangers as a training camp invitee is Garnet Exelby. The former Atlanta Thrashers defenseman spent last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, shuffling in and out of the lineup, playing in 51 games overall.

Garnet Exelby
“Last year I learned that you have to take playing in games in this league as a privilege, you can’t take things for granted at all,” said Exelby, 29.

With that attitude, Exelby heads into training camp with the Rangers seeking a fresh start.

“In reality this is not all that different from the beginning for me, where I’m kind of starting over in a way,” said the 6-foot-1, 215 pound Exelby. “The way I am approaching this is that I have to earn a spot and try to catch the coach’s eye. I’m playing for keeps.”

Similar to Semenov, Exelby is a rugged stay-at-home defenseman who relishes playing a physical style. Over 408 career games in the NHL, Exelby has registered 584 penalty minutes and 50 points.

“If I have a good opportunity I will crack someone when I can, but I won’t be running out of position to do that,.I want to be smart about it,” Exelby said. “I’m a guy who has played some years in this league playing that tenacious style.”

Next stop: Training Camp

Wednesday marked the final day of the informal group workouts that have taken place at the MSG Training Center for the past few weeks. The club’s training facility will be closed on Thursday so that the Rangers staff can prepare the building for physicals and the start of camp.

The players, including defenseman Marc Staal who agreed to a new contract with the Rangers on Wednesday, will report for the official start of training camp on Friday morning.

“I can’t wait to get going,” said newcomer Alexander Frolov, echoing the sentiments of his Rangers teammates. “It will be exciting for all of us.”