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Posted On Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 11:56 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Time to start churning

PRAGUE -- Starting with the game here Thursday night (afternoon in North America), the Rangers face the daunting test of playing four games in five nights in four different countries.

Ryan Callahan told NHL.com that now is when the grind really begins.

"We have four in five coming up, and now is the time we have to really start focusing on the regular season and getting prepared," Callahan said.

The Rangers face HC Sparta Prague here and then go to Gothenburg, Swe. to play the Frolunda Indians on Friday. They have an off day in Gothenburg on Saturday, and then head to Bratislava, Slovakia on Sunday to play HC Slovan.

It's an in and out trip in Bratislava because the Rangers (and I) will be back on the plane to head to Zug, Switzerland for their final preseason game Monday. After two nights there, the Rangers leave for Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon to begin final preparations for their season opener against the Kings next Thursday night at Globe Arena.

"It's really an intense couple of days here with four games in five nights in four different countries, so we have to be focused and do our best in these four games," Henrik Lundqvist said. "They mean a lot to us. It's an intense couple of days."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 6:43 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Morning skate report

PRAGUE -- Brandon Prust confirmed that he will play for the first time this preseason when the Rangers face HC Sparta Prague tonight at Tesla Arena.

Prust played the bulk of last season with a bum shoulder that he had operated on over the summer. A typically physical player who engages in fights, Prust was held out of contact drills, scrimmages and preseason games during the Rangers' North American portion of training camp just to be safe.

Now he's raring to go.

"It's only the preseason, but it feels like it's regular season for me," Prust said. "It's been a while since I've been out even scrimmaging with all that body contact. I'm looking forward to it."

Prust said he will not hold back.

"I'm going to go out and try to play my game, be physical," he added. "We have a short period of time here before the regular season so I have to make sure I know the body is ready and I get it ready."

Likely lineup: The 12 forwards that will suit up for the Rangers against HC Sparta Prague will all be on the NHL roster.

The only two NHL forwards that won't play are Sean Avery and Brian Boyle. Avery and Boyle both skated with the second group Thursday morning, but Avery is still recovering from a sore foot and Boyle has been battling flu-like symptoms.

The Rangers will have their top two lines intact.

Brad Richards will center Marian Gaborik and Wojtek Wolsi while Artem Anismov will play in the middle between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. The likely third line will feature Derek Stepan between Ruslan Fedotenko and Mats Zuccarello. Erik Christensen, Mike Rupp and Prust will make up the fourth line.

The blue-line remains a question mark with the status of Marc Staal (possible post-concussion symptoms) and Michael Sauer (sprained shoulder) still in doubt. Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Stu Bickel and Brendan Bell will play against Sparta.

Martin Biron will get the start in net and is expected to play the entire game. Henrik Lundqvist will back him up.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 2:16 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Rangers, Sparta exchange jerseys

PRAGUE -- HC Sparta Prague played the role of gracious hosts Wednesday night. They invited the Rangers to the Hard Rock Cafe to be their special guests at a 2011 NHL Premiere Challenge event.

The two teams, which will play against one another at Tesla Arena Thursday night, exchanged jerseys and pleasantries. Sparta also presented the Rangers with a book on the club's history.

The Rangers were represented by Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Glen Sather and Jim Schoenfeld.

"It certainly was great of Sparta to invite us here to exchange jerseys," Callahan told NHL.com. "It means a lot to us that they have accepted us so well. We are looking forward to playing them tomorrow night. They've been great hosts."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 9:59 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Zuccarello drawing some eyes

PRAGUE -- As soon as the lady introduced herself as being from Norwegian TV, Rangers coach John Tortorella and PR man John Rosasco broke into laughter.

The woman, who is here with a camera crew following around Norwegian-born Mats Zuccarello, must have felt a little awkward that her simple introduction drew some laughter, but Tortorella quickly let her know it wasn't aimed at her.

"We had a lot of Norwegian TV follow us last year, too, in New York," he said.

He's right. As soon as Zuccarello was in New York, people from his home country were following him and monitoring his development in the NHL. After all, the guy is one of two Norwegian-born players in the NHL last season (Jonas Holos), so naturally there is a great interest in how he's doing in the world's finest hockey league.

They're so interested, in fact, that the crew here Wednesday even wanted to interview me about Zuccarello.

Tortorella, though, was much more informative about Zuccarello's development.

"Last year was a great year for him to understand how to play in the small buildings and understand the National Hockey League and North American hockey," the coach said. "He had some things to work on. We talked about it before he left in the summer, and you can tell he is concentrating on what he needs to do. He's had a really good camp, so hopefully he'll continue on along the way and he'll do just fine."

Tortorella said he was particularly pleased with how Zuccarello played Monday night in Philadelphia.

"He was one of our better players," he said. "He made a couple of good plays. He is probably one of our better players in-close as far as making plays. He's had a really good camp."

But, how much will he play, asked the Norwegian TV lady.

"If he plays well, he'll play," Tortorella answered.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 9:40 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Quick updates from Wednesday's workout

PRAGUE -- Rangers center Brian Boyle took the team bus over to Tesla Arena at 9:30 Wednesday morning, but he didn't last very long. Boyle waited for the second bus carrying some Rangers and NHL personnel to arrive roughly an hour later and hitched a ride back to the hotel because he wasn't feeling well.

John Tortorella said Boyle was suffering from some flu-like symptoms so they immediately sent him home. The last thing the Rangers need is the flu-bug going around the team.

What about Staal?: Tortorella had no update on the status of defenseman Marc Staal, who remains back in New York dealing with headaches believed to be a result of a concussion he suffered he February. The Rangers remain hopeful that Staal, the No. 1 blue-liner, will be able to join them at some point on this trip.

The six-hour time difference between New York and Prague created a communication problem Tuesday and by 2 p.m. local time here Tortorella said he hadn't received any information. But, it was only 8 a.m. in New York.

"Because of the time change it's tough (to get an update)," Tortorella said. "Later on (Wednesday) we'll have more information."

Lineup for Thursday: Tortorella wouldn't confirm the entire lineup for Thursday's game against Sparta Prague, but he did give away some information.

Marty Biron will get the start in net and is expected to play the entire game. Henrik Lundqvist, who will likely play Friday against Frolunda in Gothenburg, Swe., will serve as Biron's backup.

Brendan Bell, Michael Del Zotto and Steve Eminger will all play on defense. It's possible that Tortorella also uses Tim Erixon, Blake Parlett and Stu Bickel to round out the blue line. All but Eminger are still trying to earn a spot on the opening night roster, and with injuries to Staal and Michael Sauer (shoulder sprain), there could be some potential openings.

Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards will play Thursday. The expectation is that Wojtek Wolski also plays so Tortorella can get another good look at his potential top line.

Avery on the ice: Sean Avery skated Wednesday after missing Tuesday's practice with a sore right foot. Avery, who blocked a shot with his foot in the second period of Monday's game, declined a request to be interviewed by NHL.com.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 5:33 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Is that Sean Avery in the stands?

PRAGUE -- Petr Rada has the light goatee, the dark-rimmed glasses, the short hair and the No. 16 on his back.

If you didn't know better, you would think that he was Sean Avery. That's exactly the reaction Rada, a buyer for a sporting goods company, is going for.

Avery is Rada's favorite player and the obvious influence behind his look.

"He's a very funny guy," Rada said. "For example, if you remember four years ago in the playoffs, Rangers-Devils, his thing with Martin Brodeur, it was very funny. Sean also likes fashion and I like fashion. The last time the New York Rangers were in Prague he wasn't here, but he is now and it's great."

Rada, who was among the roughly 2,000 people at Tesla Arena watching the Rangers practice Wednesday morning, said he caught up with Avery prior to the skate and was able to convince him to take a picture together.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 5:34 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Enjoying some fine local cuisine

PRAGUE -- This blog will be focused mainly on the Rangers, but from time to time over these two weeks I will interject some of my own experiences from this trip away from the team. As much as it is about them, it's also about the experience here and I want to do my best to bring you here with my words because I can't bring you, the readers, here physically.

So, after finishing up my work around 8 o'clock Tuesday night (still only 2 o'clock my time), I met up with good friend and media colleague Jim Cerny, who covers the Rangers for the team's website and does a darn fine job at it may I add. We headed out for dinner, with both of us looking for some traditional Czech food.

Hey, when in Rome, right? Or, when in Prague? You get the point.

Thanks to the helpful English-speaking gentleman at the front desk of the hotel, we made our way up the street to Kolkovna, a restaurant that advertises itself as being a traditional Czech eatery.

Sounds perfect...and it was. The guy at the front desk was spot on, even though I found out later that it was a chain.

I started out with an assortment of starter meats, including pickled sausage, ham, some type of cheese, and a few other things on the plate. To be honest, I didn't care what was there, I was hungry, it was good, I was happy.

Keeping with my traditional theme, I ordered Pilsen Goulash for my main course. The meat was succulent, the sauce was fantastic, the potato pancake was spot on and the bread dumpling pulled it all together.

Forgive me if I feel like I'm on the Food Network right now, but it was just really good. What made it even better was the Pilsner that I washed it down with.

Hey, again, when in Rome...or Prague.

After taking a long walk around the cobblestone streets, we made it back to the hotel, where I am now blogging about the meal.

The Rangers have an 11 a.m. practice tomorrow. That means it's 5 a.m. ET.

By the time you guys are either awake or at work, I'll likely have a new blog post up and be itching to do more.

The Pilsner Pub is calling my name for tomorrow night.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 1:11 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Sauer still a possibility for preseason game

PRAGUE -- Rangers coach John Tortorella didn't want to rule out defenseman Mike Sauer playing in one of the team's four remaining preseason games before the regular season begins Oct. 7. Sauer sprained his right shoulder early in Monday's game in Philadelphia and has been ruled out for at least a week, but that's not set in stone.

"It depends," Tortorella said. "His injury, we're talking about a week, but you never know how he'll heal. If he feels well enough, we want to try to get him some action."

Sean Avery also sat out Tuesday's practice after injuring the big toe on his right foot blocking a shot in the second period Monday night. Avery, who did not wear a shoe on his right foot when he got on the plane, may have lost the entire nail.

"He's got a sore foot," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure where he'll be (Wednesday)."

There was no update on Marc Staal's status on Tuesday. He remains in New York. I'll try to get an update Wednesday because maybe Tortorella will know more by then.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 1:07 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Rangers make it through Day 1

PRAGUE -- The Rangers started Tuesday's practice at Tesla Arena with some skating drills. They did laps around the ice to get their legs moving, the blood flowing.

The pucks came out a little later and they did some basic passing and shooting drills, including 2-on-0s. The practice closed with a game of mini 3-on-3 with the nets situated on each blue line and the players jumping on and off the ice rapidly.

It wasn't exactly light-hearted because Tortorella did some yelling and made sure to get his message across in a pair of impassioned speeches, one during practice and one after practice, but the workout was crisp and there was a purpose to it.

"We're trying to get into the time zone," Tortorella said in front of a larger than anticipated media throng. "We had a long, good travel night. It worked out very smoothly, but we're trying to keep them up, get them accustomed to this time zone and just get a sweat.

"Sometimes when you switch venues, especially coming this far, we forget what we're doing. It's not to look at a beautiful area out here; we're here to get ready for a hockey season. We have a lot of work to do."

After months of talking about the trip, the Rangers are just happy that they're finally here and it's under way.

"It's really nice to get a practice under your belt, get off the plane, just relax and get organized and settled in the city," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We've been talking about the trip now for a long time, so to be here now and get settled, it's a good feeling."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 9:52 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers World Tour

Rangers have arrived, time to sweat

PRAGUE -- The flight was about as uneventful as it gets. The players sat in the first-class seats of the giant 767 we flew to Prague while the Rangers coaches, executive staff, doctors, trainers, equipment managers and NHL personnel such as myself lounged in coach, each with our own row.

Dinner was served shortly after we took off from Philadelphia and then it was lights out until the captain said we were close to Prague and the breakfast service began.

We landed here at 1 p.m. local time, which for us was 7 a.m. The crew on the tarmac seemed genuinely thrilled to see the Rangers. One of them even had a jersey that he was getting signed. They were all using their camera phones.

The bus ride from the airport to the hotel was long and eventful as the drivers of our giant buses tried to navigate through the narrow, hilly roads that were further constricted by construction.

Once we got to the hotel there was a sizable contingent of autograph seekers waiting for the Rangers. They all had their binders with hockey cards and they were eager. The Rangers obliged on their way into the hotel.

After taking about 45 minutes to shower and refresh, the players met to head over to Tesla Arena.

Rangers coach John Tortorella wants to put his team through a practice so they can get a sweat and get the jet lag out of their systems.

That's where we are heading now.
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When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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