Ryan Callahan eyes playing opener

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan still is preparing to play in the season opener, despite a surgically repaired shoulder that was expected to hold him out of play for up to the first month.

The 28-year-old admitted that the timeline is an aggressively optimistic one, but that he's trying to make that date nonetheless.

The Rangers open the season with a nine-game road trip beginning at the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 3.

"I think there's a slim chance it could happen," Callahan said. "I'm not going to say no until that day has passed. I'll just keep strengthening it and see what happens."

Callahan, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May, began shooting three weeks ago and has experienced no issues. His next benchmark will be when he's cleared for contact, though he's not sure when that will happen.

So far, however, he's happy with how his rehabilitation is going.

"It's progressing the way it should be," Callahan said. "Everything's on schedule."

Both Callahan and fellow top-six forward Carl Hagelin are recovering from the same injury and following a similar timetable, which could potentially leave a gaping hole in the team's opening-day roster.

Starting the season without Callahan, a scenario for which the Rangers have been bracing, will be a challenge for a team starting fresh with new coach Alain Vigneault.

As the heart-and-soul leader of the team, Callahan sets the tone for his club with his gritty and relentless style of play. He is also one of the team's most consistent offensive contributors, with 16 goals and 31 points in the 2013 lockout-shortened season.

Though the ability to place him on long-term injury reserve temporarily would create some salary cap space for the Rangers -- Callahan's cap charge this season is $4.275 million -- the team needs his leadership both on and off the ice.

"I just kinda wish I were out there with the guys right now, battling with them and doing the workload of training camp with them," Callahan said.

Callahan said he doesn't think he'll be behind in learning Vigneault's new system. He'll do video work to learn the different principles and meet with the coaching staff to acclimate.

He has already spoken with Vigneault and said he looks forward to building a rapport with his new coach, who was hired after the dismissal of John Tortorella in May.

"That's a relationship I'm looking forward to build," Callahan said. "It's going to take some time, but I think we're off to a good start and we're pretty open with each other so far with how we feel."

Vigneault clearly feels the same.

"Those guys [captains] are my liaison, my extension to the group, so I always make sure my relationship with those players is ... constant, constant interaction," Vigneault said. "They give me the pulse of the team.

Speaking of communication, Callahan said he has not spoken with Tortorella since he was fired following the team's disappointing second-round exit from the playoffs last spring.

"It's part of the profession," Callahan said. "These things happen. Torts was great with me, great with this team. He did great things for the organization -- we went to the conference finals two years ago -- but for whatever reason, management wanted to go in a new direction and that's the other side of this business."

Callahan said there are no hard feelings there, whatsoever.

"I have nothing against Torts at all," he said. "I think he's a great guy off the ice and he's a great coach, too."