The Rangers’ 12-day, 5-stop Europe trip offered plenty by way of passport stamps and miles traveled, but there was one thing sorely missing in the week leading up to the team’s season opener.
“That’s the hard part of doing it,” coach John Tortorella said. “I think the guys had fun, the fans were fantastic, everything about it was a great experience, but as far as the nuts and bolts of getting your hockey team ready, that’s the biggest disadvantage we had.”
The Rangers flew home without a win after their first two games of the season – overtime losses to the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.
After a day to catch up on sleep and shake the lingering effects of the six-hour time difference, the Rangers practiced hard for ninety minutes at the team’s training center in Westchester Monday, devoting the last half hour to special teams.
“I think everybody’s still a little tired from the jet lag but it was good to get some of the junk out of our bodies and get some work done,” alternate captain Brad Richards said. “As the week goes by it will get better and sharper. I can’t wait to play again”
Richards said he can’t say what would’ve transpired had the Rangers been benefactors of a normal training camp and preseason, but that they’ll grow from the experience moving forward.
“The trip was something that had to be done. It is what it is, we accepted it and we did it. It wasn’t a normal schedule but it wasn’t something we couldn’t handle either,” he said.
During the last game overseas – a 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim – Richards was separated from linemate Marian Gaborik for the first time since training camp began.
They’ll be rejoined for the team’s next game –Saturday against the Islanders – with physical left winger Brandon Dubinsky, Tortorella said. How the lines will take shape from there remains to be seen.
Among other challenges the lengthy jaunt created was a difficulty in evaluating — both the team as a whole and individual players.
Tortorella hopes that can be accomplished in the next week of practice leading up to the team’s four-game tour in Western Canada next week.
“That’s when were really going to find out what our concept is like, what are matches are as far as forward lines.”