STOCKHOLM --Jeff Woywitka was wide awake and excited Saturday morning. Nothing could wipe the smile off his face, not even the jet lag he had to be feeling or the thought that he'll be back on a plane after the game against the Ducks, heading to another hotel bed.
The Rangers claimed Woywitka off waivers from Montreal on Thursday. He didn't play Friday and he won't play tonight either, but he's here and he's excited to be a Ranger despite his whirlwind last two days.
"It's been interesting and also exciting," Woywitka told NHL.com after taking part in his first optional skate as a Ranger. "I was put on waivers the other day, and you never know what can happen. If you clear you can end up going down, but obviously your main goal is to stay in the NHL. To get picked up and have another opportunity to play it's exciting for me, especially with an organization like the Rangers. I know a few of the guys here, and things are good."
Since Woywitka was in Toronto with the Canadiens, he left from there on an 8:50 p.m. ET flight to Copenhagen. After an hour and a half layover, he flew to Stockholm and got here around 1 p.m. local time Friday.
Woywitka didn't walk into the Rangers team hotel here until 2:30.
"Most of the guys were already in their pregame naps," said Woywitka, who played the last two seasons in Dallas with Brad Richards. "I got to the hotel and saw Brendan Bell, a guy I played World Juniors with. I hung out in the lobby, talked to him, met a few of the guys -- it was good. I came to the game, saw a good one, and Stockholm looks like a very historic, unique city. It's nice to get a chance to experience that and see a new part of the world."
Woywitka experienced his first team meeting with Rangers coach John Tortorella on Saturday. He was also one of 12 guys to skate after the meeting.
He'll get a better crash course in the Rangers ways when the team gets back on its routine in New York next week. For now, though, he couldn't stop raving about how well he is being treated.
"Everything was set up perfectly," he said about his travel here. "Everything was straightforward, lined up. You can just tell these guys do it first class here. That's all you can ask for. It makes you feel comfortable."
It also makes him feel confident that once he gets to New York, Woywitka will have some help setting up his life there. He's a single guy so he doesn't have to worry about moving a family, but the adjustment is still taxing.
"That's part of the NHL," Woywitka said. "There are a lot of movements here and there, but I'm excited about it. The way I've been treated here already, I'm sure it's not going to be a big issue getting settled. Obviously there is going to be a change, but I'm looking forward to it."
STOCKHOLM -- After getting beaten all over the ice by Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne in the first period Friday night, the Rangers tightened up against the Kings top line and managed to keep them in check.
The difference was in their forecheck. Or, better yet, the difference was that they actually forechecked starting in the second period.
"We knew the ice was bad so the times when you don't want to forecheck or stretch yourself out too much, we decided we were going to go and get two guys on (the Kings) D," Brian Boyle told NHL.com. "Once we started doing that we got the puck back more. When they got the puck back after that we were closer to them to have some contact. Earlier we were giving them too much room to skate."
The Rangers can't wait to do the same Saturday night against the Ducks leading trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. As good as the Kopitar line is, Anaheim's first line might be the best in the NHL.
"They're very dangerous," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan told NHL.com. "They have a lot of talent up front and the more time we spend in their zone below the dots it'll be for the better. That's a big thing for us, getting pucks deep behind their D."
The more the Rangers have the puck, the better their chances are to draw penalties. They only drew one Friday night, but they took five and the fifth one burned them.
"That's the biggest thing for us, we have to hold on to pucks, especially when you're up against top lines," Callahan said. "If you have the puck, they don't."
Slight advantage: The Rangers went back to their hotel Friday night, had a quick meal and were off to bed. They woke up Saturday and took what has become a familiar route to Ericsson Globe Arena, the arena they've called home since Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Ducks played in Helsinki Friday night, had a quick team meal, and then went to the airport, where they sat for a while before finally taking off to fly to Stockholm. They didn't get to the team hotel until close to 3 o'clock in the morning, and then woke up Saturday in an unfamiliar place and took an unfamiliar route to an arena they've never been in.
"Yeah, that might be," Boyle said. "It's easier when you don't have to travel, but we lost last night so I'm sure a lot of guys were up late trying to get to sleep. I know I was. It was tough. At this point, you could argue that we have a little bit of an advantage, but it's minimal. We know they're going to come hard and we've got to do the same."
STOCKHOLM -- They can't replace him, but the Rangers say they can still win without star defenseman Marc Staal, who remains back in New York dealing with post-concussion symptoms.
Their first test comes Friday night here against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere.
"You're to have injuries and you just have to accept it. You can't see it as a great problem for your club," Henrik Lundqvist told NHL.com Friday morning. "Whatever we have here now is going to work for us. That's the way you have to think. Whenever he comes, he's going to be welcomed here, but right now it's up to us and I think we're going to do well."
There is no timetable on when Staal will return.
Rangers GM and President Glen Sather told the New York Post that he could be out a month, but if the headaches go away he'll be back sooner. If the headaches persist, Staal's absence could linger beyond November.
It's impossible to predict.
"He's not here with us right now so we have to get going without him," Dan Girardi, who takes over as the team's No. 1 blue-liner in Staal's absence, told NHL.com. "We have a bunch of D here right now that can play and we're all going to step up our game in his absence and hopefully bring a little extra to fill the hole."
Ryan McDonagh said the Rangers five-man defensive system should help minimize the effect of losing Staal.
"We play a whole five-man unit defensive system in our D zone so not everything relies on the D-men," McDonagh told NHL.com. "If you play defense as a team it helps solidify everything."
McDonagh, who played 40 games as a rookie last season, will start Friday's game with Girardi on the top pair. Michael Del Zotto, who entered camp just trying to make it through all the cuts, will play on the second pair with Michael Sauer. Tim Erixon will be making his NHL debut Friday night on the third pair with Steve Eminger.
"I don't think anyone is going to be playing out of their comfort zone and trying to do too much," Girardi told NHL.com. "I'm still going to play my game and the other guys are going to play their game. Just because Marc is not here doesn't mean we're going to step out of our roles."
Woywitka was due to fly from Montreal to Stockholm, where the Rangers open the season Friday against the Los Angeles Kings. It wasn't immediately known if Woywitka would arrive in time for the morning skate, or who will be assigned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL to make room for him on the roster.
Defensemen Stu Bickel has been assigned back to Connecticut.
Woywitka signed a one-year, two-way contract with Montreal on July 1 that pays him $650,000 at the NHL level.
"It's too bad we lost him, but it's a nice opportunity for him in New York," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "I think the fact we signed players like (Alexei) Emelin and (Rafael) Diaz, they're two players with a lot of potential who have played professional hockey before and who bring different elements. So I think we have good depth on defense."
The Rangers were looking for a veteran defenseman to help them with Marc Staal going on injured reserve due to post-concussion symptoms. The club recalled Erixon from Connecticut on Wednesday and brought him back across the Atlantic to potentially make his NHL debut Friday against the Kings in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere.
However, coach John Tortorella would prefer that Erixon learn the North American game in the AHL for a while.
Woywitka played the last two seasons in Dallas, compiling 14 points over 99 games. He has played in 251 NHL games since making his debut with St. Louis in 2005-06. His best season was 2008-09, when he had 18 points in 65 games with the Blues.
STOCKHOLM -- After a second straight healthy practice at Ericsson Globe Arena, several Rangers players were planning an afternoon go-karting trip.
Odds are coach John Tortorella wasn't among them.
The Rangers are a loose bunch these days, but they're also a focused bunch. I'm not sure if I've been around a team that was more excited to get the preseason finished.
Four games on international ice in five nights in four different countries will get you soured on the preseason. The Rangers are pumped to play for two points Friday.
"I'm not sure if it's nerves; it's anticipation," Tortorella said. "Camp is long. It's long for the players, it's long for the coaches. I'm anxious to see us play. If you don't have any type of anxiousness or nervousness before a game, any game, you're not ready. So, yeah, I'm geared up right now."
Henrik Lundqvist said he can feel himself getting "more tense and focused on what we have to do."
"The season starts tomorrow and I can tell inside of me that mentally I'm getting ready and physically I'm getting ready," he added. "It's exciting."
Rupp misses practice: Left wing Mike Rupp was held out of practice Thursday as a precaution due to a sore knee, Tortorella said. The coach called it a maintenance day for Rupp, and said he will be in the lineup Friday against the Kings (1 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN).
Quotable: "I've got to say, we're really happy with the team we have right now," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We have four solid lines, obviously one of the best goalies in the League and a pretty young, strong 'D' corps back there. Even without Marc (Staal), I think we're one of the top-10 teams in the League. I don't want to go too high or too low here, but I think we've got a pretty solid team here."
STOCKHOLM -- Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted Tuesday night that he had reservations about using either Brendan Bell or Stu Bickel as his No. 6 defenseman to start the season.
His voice was most definitely heard, because the club will recall rookie defenseman Tim Erixon from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL on Wednesday.
After practicing with the Whale on Wednesday, Erixon will fly to Stockholm to join the team for Thursday's practice in preparation for Friday's season-opener against Los Angeles in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere.
It's been a whirlwind adventure for the native Swede.
Erixon was in Europe with the Rangers until he was cut on Saturday. He returned to Connecticut on Sunday, but now he's ticketed for his third trans-Atlantic flight in a matter of 10 days.
Tortorella wanted Erixon to play in the AHL so he could get used to playing on the smaller ice sheet and work on parts of his game, including closing out players and overall being more physical.
However, with Marc Staal not here due to post-concussion symptoms and Tortorella clearly not comfortable with using Bell or Bickel, especially in back-to-back games, Erixon is on his way back.
STOCKHOLM -- Who knew that an arrival to a new city would be met with breaking news.
Not long after we touched down in Stockholm, Larry Brooks of the New York Post tweeted that Sean Avery was going to be placed on waivers at noon ET today. The news spread quickly, and a Rangers representative confirmed it to me shortly after it happened officially.
I wrote all about Avery and waivers in this story, but the gist of it is that he will be on waivers for 24 hours and can be claimed. If he is, the Rangers will be off the hook from paying him the $1,937,500 they owe him for the season.
If Avery goes unclaimed, the Rangers likely will assign him to Connecticut of the AHL. They would still have to pay him, but they would no longer have his salary cap hit.
Avery's agent, Pat Morris, told ESPN.com and The Sporting News that the 31-year-old left wing's future could be in Europe.
We'll see on that.
If that wasn't enough, Dale Weise, who had a strong camp but was cut and placed on waivers Saturday, was claimed by Vancouver on Tuesday. Weise could get an opportunity to play with the Canucks early this season due to injuries to Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler.
Weise is a tough loss for the Rangers in terms of depth. He would have started the season in Connecticut, but also could have been one of the first forwards called up. Kris Newbury, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Bourque and John Mitchell also were cut Saturday.
ZUG, Switzerland -- John Tortorella said originally the Rangers were supposed to play in Budapest on Monday night, but that game got cancelled. Instead of keeping Monday as an open date, the Rangers worked with the NHL to schedule their game against EV Zug at Bossard Arena.
From an atmosphere and money-making standpoint, packing the arena and selling all kinds of merchandise made the night a success. From a coaching standpoint, Tortorella now wishes the game were never scheduled only because he would have loved to use it as a practice day.
The Rangers lost the game, 8-4.
"We played four games in five nights and you tell me how many countries we've been in … I don't know," Tortorella said. "When we were doing the schedule, we added this one and I wish we had this as a practice day. I think we need to practice. We haven't practiced."
The Rangers last good, long, hard practice came last Wednesday in Prague. They played Thursday against Sparta Prague and Friday in Gothenburg against Frolunda. They were given Saturday off and then played Sunday in Bratislava against HC Slovan and Monday here against EV Zug.
They will travel to Stockholm on Tuesday and will not skate, but Tortorella has grand plans for practice sessions Wednesday and Thursday at Ericsson Globe Arena.
"It's going to be good to recharge our batteries and refocus our energy and efforts into some practices on Wednesday and Thursday before the weekend comes," Brandon Dubinsky said.
The Rangers have some work to do with their power play and keeping their sticks on the ice so they stop taking some unnecessary penalties. They've got to figure out exactly who is going to play left wing on the line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
Wojtek Wolski likely has the edge in that race, but he's been dealing with a sore groin, so he needs to get back on the ice and practice. The same goes for defenseman Michael Sauer, who has worked out only once since spraining his shoulder last week in Philadelphia.
Tortorella expects Wolski and Sauer to practice with the team on Wednesday.
"Every city that we've been in has been very hospitable," Dubinsky said. "The hotels have been great, the service great and obviously the crowds in the game have been an excellent experience. It's been great, but I can't wait to get ready, get our season under way, to play for points. We're just excited to get to Stockholm."
ZUG, Switzerland -- Playing their fourth game in five nights in five different countries, the road-weary New York Rangers fell victim to Swiss club EV Zug on Monday, losing 8-4.
The Rangers trailed 3-1 late in the first period, but got goals from Mike Rupp and Artem Anisimov in the final 1:13 to end the period tied at 3-3.
However, a pair of former NHL players, Glen Metropolit and Josh Holden, scored 41 seconds apart to put the Swiss club up 5-3 after two periods. The Rangers didn't have the gas left in the tank to climb back into the game.
Check NHL.com for full game coverage as well as this blog for more notes about all the day's action.
ZUG, Switzerland -- Artem Anisimov's shot went off the end boards and bounced right in front of the goal where Ruslan Fedotenko banged it in with 1:12 left to cut the EV Zug lead to 5-4. That's where it stands heading into the third period.
The Rangers applied pressure in the final minute, but they couldn't get the equalizer before time expired.
Rangers coach John Tortorella shuffled his lines in the second period, putting Brandon Dubinsky with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. He's still looking for the correct left wing to play with the two high-paid superstars.
Fedotenko, who played with Gaborik and Richards in the first period, dropped into Dubinsky's spot on the second line with Anisimov and captain Ryan Callahan.
ZUG, Switzerland --Mike Rupp and Artem Anisimov scored goals 13 seconds apart to send the Rangers and EV Zug into the dressing rooms tied at 3-3.
Rupp scored at 18:47 off a deflection of Michael Del Zotto's point shot. Anisimov scored an unassisted goal at 19 minutes off a great individual effort.
Anisimov lost the puck at his feet during a center drive, but he used his strength to find it between two Zug players and get a good shot off on Zug goalie Jussi Markkanen to tie the game at 3-3.
The Rangers were flat out bad in the first 10 minutes of the game, but they picked it up. Save for a great move by former NHLer Josh Holden to undress Brad Richards and score a shorthanded goal, the final 10 minutes was all Rangers.
ZUG, Switzerland -- The Rangers have picked up their speed since the 10-minute mark of the first period and it paid off as Brandon Dubinsky set up Ryan Callahan with a goal from the slot off the rush at 15:40 to slice EV Zug's lead to 2-1.
Dubinsky used his speed down the left-wing boards to get room and find a streaking Callahan in front. Callahan's initial attempt was stopped by Zug goalie Jussi Markkanen, but Callahan tapped the rebound in before skating around the goal.
However, nine seconds into a power play, the Rangers coughed up the puck and former NHL player Josh Holden undressed Brad Richards before firing the puck over Martin Biron's right shoulder to give Zug a 3-1 lead with 3:36 to play in the first period.
ZUG, Switzerland -- Brandon Dubinsky got an extra penalty for roughing after a post-whistle skirmish with Timo Helbling and EV Zug made the Rangers pay. Esa Pirnes, who played for the Los Angeles Kings during the 2003-04 season, rifled a one-timer from the right circle over Martin Biron's shoulder and into the near corner just 1:18 into the game.
The Rangers now have trailed 1-0 in their last three preseason games here in Europe. They came back to win the other two.
ZUG, Switzerland -- Rangers coach John Tortorella said Saturday that he wants to keep only 13 forwards and the battle for the final roster spot was between Sean Avery and Erik Christensen. With two preseason games remaining before the final cut has to be made, most everyone made the assumption that both players would skate in both games so the coach could get a good look at them.
Well, Avery didn't play Sunday in Bratislava and he's not in the lineup today in Zug.
Why? Well, I won't get the chance to ask the coach until after the game, but I can figure only two things: Either Tortorella has seen enough of Avery, who injured his lip against Frolunda on Friday, and wanted to get a real good look at Christensen without having to worry about watching another player as closely, or Avery is on his way out.
I could be way off, but that's what I'm going with right now. I'll find out more from Tortorella after the game.
Christensen is in the lineup and will start centering the fourth line, between Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. Boyle started Sunday's game as the first-line left wing, but has dropped to the fourth line to start this game. I still think Boyle is targeted to be the Rangers' fourth-line center, but Christensen also is a center and clearly Tortorella has to get one final look at him in a game.
Martin Biron is starting in net for the Rangers with Scott Stajcer serving as his backup. Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire told me that dressing Henrik Lundqvist today would be meaningless, and dressing four out of five nights also is difficult for a goalie, who even as a backup still has to prepare and mentally focus as if he is going to play.
EV Zug has some recognizable names, including goalie Jussi Markkanen, who played 26 games for the Rangers in 2003-04, but is more known for his time in Edmonton. Markkanen is in his third year in Zug.
Glen Metropolit has played in 407 NHL games with seven teams, most recently the Canadiens from 2008-10. Josh Holden played a combined 60 NHL games for the Canucks, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs, and Andy Wozniewski played with the Leafs, Blues and Bruins, totaling 79 NHL games, from 2005-10.
One of the Zug beat writers told me to watch Damien Brunner, No. 96 in your program. The 25-year-old is the leading scorer in the Swiss league and many here believe he will compete for an NHL contract next season. The Wild were interested in him this season, but Brunner decided to stay in Switzerland because an injury kept him out of the World Championship, and presumably, cost him a chance at a better NHL contract.
ZURICH, Switzerland -- By no means are the Rangers overlooking tonight's game against EV Zug, but coach John Tortorella admitted Sunday night that his team is tired and needs to get settled in to focus on the season-opener on Friday against Los Angeles.
To do that, Tortorella is looking forward to having two strong practices in Stockholm on Wednesday and Thursday. The Rangers will fly to Sweden's capital city on Tuesday and won't skate, but Wednesday has all the makings of a big-time work day for the club.
"I think we've really got to try to use (tonight's) game to be a little bit quicker in the things we do, but with respect to the players there is a lot of things that go into it," Tortorella said. "With a big rink it's just a different game, it really is. We're going to try to do the best we can to prepare. That's why I'm really looking forward to the two practice days we have. I think that's going to be an important part toward the end of this camp."
Tortorella plans to work on all facets of the Rangers' "concept" on Wednesday and Thursday, including the power play, which has been spotty in the three games here in Europe.
"It's OK. It's OK," Tortorella said of the power play. "But, again, I'm looking forward to the two practice days. We'll work on that and we'll work on a number of different things, and go from there."
Henrik Lundqvist, who won't play against EV Zug, said the travel/rest day Tuesday as well as the practices scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will be key for him because while he's feeling better and better with each passing game, he still has some fine tuning to do.
"I have to have a good week with some hard practice to work on all the details," Lundqvist said. "It's important to get a good week in with some solid practice, and to rest up a little bit. It's been a busy schedule the last couple of days. When we get to Stockholm we're going to take a deep breath and then have Wednesday and Thursday to really work on all things to get ready."
ZURICH, Switzerland -- John Tortorella had no update to give us on defenseman Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms) based off his practice Saturday with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Staal practiced with the Whale on Friday and said he would return Saturday if he did not experience headaches. He was back Saturday, but Tortorella said he hadn't yet spoken to trainer Jim Ramsey to find out how it went. He said the six-hour time difference and the fact that he was focused on getting the guys that are here prepared for a game didn't allow him to talk to Ramsey.
Odds are Tortorella spoke to Ramsey on the flight here from Bratislava, but I won't have the ability to ask Tortorella anything about that conversation until either before or after Monday's game in Zug.
What's also of note is that Tortorella wouldn't specifically rule Michael Sauer (shoulder sprain) out of Monday's game. Tortorella instead said he still has to talk to Ramsey to see how Sauer is doing, but he mentioned that the young defenseman was progressing nicely in his recovery and hinted that he would be ready to go for the season-opener Friday in Stockholm against the Kings.
"He's day to day, much better today, but we're trying to be careful there," Tortorella said. "We want him to be as healthy as possible before we open up."
Speaking about that other stuff, I just wanted to take the time to give a great deal of credit to the Rangers equipment staff led by Cas Marques. Those guys have been working harder than anyone on this trip.
Knowing they would be rushed Sunday night to get everything out of the arena and on the truck so the team could take off on time, Cas and his boys had the bags packed and ready to go before some of the players were even out of the showers. It was pretty incredible to see them at work.
They even got some help from Bill Miller of the NHL Events Department. As I was going into the dressing room to talk to the players, Miller was lugging two huge equipment bags out.
Well done Cas and his boys, and well done Bill.
Finally, Ruslan Fedotenko rode in the cockpit for our flight from Bratislava to Zurich. Fortunately, Fedotenko did not mess with any of the equipment.
His opportunity came tonight, and after sluggish start Boyle, normally a center, said he got more and more comfortable in the unfamiliar role.
"We have a lot of depth this year and depth at center, so to be able to play wing and play it well is something I've got to continue to work on," said Boyle, who scored a goal in the Rangers 4-1 win over HC Slovan. "That'll help me play more. It's a good thing to have in your aresenal."
Tortorella wasn't all that impressed with Boyle or the top line in general, but that was due in large part to the sluggish nature of the entire team after a hectic travel day that started in Sweden and will end in Switzerland.
That said, Tortorella is still willing to try out people at that left wing spot to see if something clicks. He also used Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko there.
Right now Wojtek Wolski appears to have a leg up on everybody, but he's day-to-day with a sore groin so Boyle, Dubinsky and Fedotenko might get another crack with Richards and Gaborik Monday night in Zug.
"It was mixed up a little bit, the lines, but he's strong," Gaborik said of Boyle. "We'll see what is going to happen there, but he played well."
If Boyle fits there it'll only be because he plays his straight-ahead, no-nonsense game. It might make sense for the Rangers to have a more physical player to play with Gaborik and Richards, but that's something Tortorella has to figure out.
"I can't worry about trying to play a different game or a finesse game with them," Boyle said.
BRATISLAVA -- The Rangers scored three unanswered goals in the second period to take a two-goal lead into the final 20 minutes.
Artem Anisimov capped the second-period scoring with a shorthanded goal at 17:42. Brandon Prust made the play possible by racing into the zone and picking up a turnover by Slovan goalie Patrick Galbraith, who tried to leave the puck for one of his defensemen but did it too slowly, allowing the forechecking Prust to make the play.
Prust gathered the puck and found Anisimov in front. Anisimov's first shot was stopped, but he kicked the rebound back to his forehand and from the lip of the crease he put the puck in the net to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Mats Zuccarello scored on a 5-on-3 with 13:57 to play in the second period and Brian Boyle scored 59 seconds later to give the Rangers the lead.
The Rangers had 18 shots in the second period after managing only six in the first. Henrik Lundqvist has 22 saves through two periods.
BRATISLAVA -- The Rangers had a full two-minute 5-on-3 to work with and they cashed in as Mats Zuccarello scored at 6:03 of the second period to make it 1-1. Fifty-nine seconds later, Brian Boyle converted on a slam dunk goal from in front of the crease to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 12:58 to play in the second period.
Zuccarello scored during the 5-on-3 with a one-timer from the lower right circle off a feed from Brad Richards. Zuccarello fed Richards between the circles and after faking a shot, Richards gave it back to him for the one timer.
Shortly after the power play expired, Dan Girardi made a sweet pass from the right circle to Boyle, who was all alone in the low slot for the easy goal.
The Rangers, who were outshot, 12-6, in the first period, have a 10-3 advantage so far in the second period and not even nine minutes have gone by.
BRATISLAVA -- The road weary Rangers showed very little jump in the first period and trail 1-0 heading into the dressing room for the first intermission. Ivan Svarny's power-play goal at 8:22 is the difference. Slovan holds a 12-6 advantage in shots on goal.
The Rangers penalty kill, which was burned by Svarny, got better later in the period when it had to kill off back-to-back minors to Brian Boyle and Steve Eminger that including a 5-on-3 for 21 seconds.
Boyle went off for boarding at 15:59 and Eminger was called for cross checking at 17:38.
Near the end of the 5-on-3, Henrik Lundqvist came across his crease to make a sharp pad save on a redirect to keep the deficit at only 1-0.
The atmosphere inside Slovnaft Arena is spectacular. The fans are cheering just about everything. They, of course, love Marian Gaborik.
BRATISLAVA -- With Mike Rupp in the penalty box for hooking, HC Slovan struck for a power-play goal to take a 1-0 lead with 11:18 to play in the first period.
Ivan Svarny set up shop at the top of the blue line and rifled a low snap shot that cleared the screens in front of Henrik Lundqvist and beat the Rangers goalie on his glove side. Michal Macho and ex-NHLer Miroslav Satan picked up the assists.
With just under 10 minutes remaining now, Slovan holds a 1-0 lead and a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal.
Dan Girardi, who hasn't played yet here in Europe, will be on the top defensive pair with Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers have only six healthy defensemen here with Michael Sauer still out with a shoulder injury and Marc Staal back in the U.S.
BRATISLAVA -- Three countries in a span of about 12 hours. Holy smokes.
That's what today is all about, three in one, with a game in the middle.
We have arrived in Bratislava and the Rangers are in the process of getting ready for their game against HC Slovan at Slovnaft Arena in a little over three hours.
We woke up this morning in Gothenburg, had breakfast and headed to the airport for our roughly two hour flight to Bratislava. We touched down here around 1:10 p.m. local time.
We bussed to a hotel, which is attached to Slovnaft Arena, so the Rangers could have a pregame meal. More on that in a bit.
There were plenty of autograph and photograph hounds waiting at the hotel for the Rangers to arrive. There were also several photographers and TV cameras waiting for Gaborik, who happily did interviews with them all and signed as many autographs as he could.
In fact, as Gaborik was walking up a flight of stairs to a scheduled pregame meal, a kid in a wheelchair came into the lobby and screamed out his name. Gaborik turned around and quickly made a beeline down the steps to sign the kids cards and take a picture with him.
Speaking of the pregame meal, after eating breakfast and then getting the chance to eat again on the plane, I'm not sure how many Rangers at again at the hotel. I'm not exactly sure who ate and how much they did, because it would have been their third meal in about four hours, which seems a bit crazy to me.
Anyway, even with the arena only a two-minute walk from the hotel, it was still a chore to find the right way to go. For some reason myself, Rangers website writer Jim Cerny and MSG photographer Scott Levy decided to follow a crew that included Mike Rupp, Martin Biron and Scott Stajcer.
We should have just waited for Gaborik considering he has played here before and probably would have been a better guide.
But, we digress. We found our way into the press center and I must say, it is really nice and the wireless internet access is first class.
The game begins at 5 p.m. local time and when it's over, we'll be back on the bus, heading back to the airport to fly to Zurich tonight. The Rangers play in nearby Zug on Monday night, their final tuneup before the regular season begins Friday in Stockholm.
Three countries in one day with a game in the middle. Just your average day.
GOTHENBURG, Swe. -- With a full day off built into the schedule, Henrik Lundqvist had planned to take all of his teammates on a boat cruise around Gothenburg this afternoon, but fog ruined his plans.
The guys were supposed to leave around 11 a.m. local time, but Lundqvist had to break the bad news to them that it was a no-go. A team dinner is still planned for tonight at Lundqvist's favorite restaurant in town.
Most of the Rangers spent the morning and afternoon walking around Gothenburg. I did the same thing with Rangers website writer Jim Cerny.
Today is a beautiful day and Jim and I took a walk up to the main street in the city, which is filled with restaurants, bars and shopping. Since it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, there were thousands of people milling all around.
Every restaurant, even Subway and 7-Eleven, had outside seating. We found a place right on the street, and for 150 Kronas each, the equivalent of about $20, we ate a full buffet lunch and did some awesome people watching.
We had to get back to the hotel by 4 because Rangers coach John Tortorella was conducting a conference call to talk about the eight cuts and give some injury updates on Marc Staal and Michael Sauer.
With the work now complete (I know, tough day), it's time to hit the street again. My own personal rule is when I have time in foreign cities, I have to walk around to get a feel for the place.
Gothenburg has a great vibe. Now I finally know what Lundqvist has been talking about all this time.
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Considering the Rangers are expected to be making cuts in the next 24 hours, there were other storylines to watch from their perspective tonight. It just wouldn't be right to lump them in with what was an incredible homecoming for Henrik Lundqvist.
So instead, I'm going to push off the other news until Saturday, when the Rangers have a scheduled off day because Lundqvist has planned activities around Gothenburg for all of them. Tonight I'm going empty my recorder right into this blog.
Here are quotes about Lundqvist's night that I didn't use in my main story:
Lundqvist on the experience: "So many memories came up. I had my parents here and my closest friends, but also the Rangers. To have them here feels amazing. It's just a great experience. I will never forget it."
Lundqvist on getting an "A": "They were hiding my jersey until I had to go on. Then I saw it. There were so many things that meant a lot to me today and that was one of them, getting an 'A' here. To have the crowd welcome me like that and the players play a great game. I was very nervous. I wanted to win this game so I don't have to come back next summer and hear about it. Right now I'm just trying to reflect about everything that happened. It's going to take a couple of days."
Lundqvist on facing his twin brother, Joel: "I don't know if it's tough, but it's weird. Somehow I can always tell when he's on the ice and I always get a little more nervous when he gets closer to the net. I definitely don't want him to score. I really don't want him to score so it feels good that he did not score today."
Brian Boyle on Lundqvist: "You just feel happy for the guy. I can't imagine it's easy to go to across the ocean and play, and he's really made a name for himself. He's obviously a great athlete, a great goaltender and he means so much as a player on our team, but he's just a great guy. He's a great teammate, friend and he treats everybody with a lot of respect, it doesn't matter where you are in the organization. He's a good person so you want him to do well and you want good things to happen to him. It's obvious that they have and he's earned it."
Brian Boyle again on Lundqvist's plans for his team-only activity in Gothenburg on Saturday: "He wants us to see it so he has a lot of things set up for us. I know he's done a lot of work in that regard just to get us all together. That's a big thing for a team, and for him to go through a lot of work and make plans to get us involved, he just went out of his way to make sure we enjoy this trip as much as he does."
Tim Erixon on being a part of the experience: "It was exciting to see the ceremony before. You realize just how much they like him here and how big he is here. That was special."
Mike Rupp on seeing Lundqvist in this environment: "It's really neat to see. This is a part of the world that I'm not too familiar with, and you get to see what these guys mean. Sometimes I think we forget how fortunate we are when we play this game that you can look back on your career and see how many different players you've played with and what they mean to their country. It's pretty impressive."
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- The Rangers had to kill four straight penalties going back to the end of the first period, but Henrik Lundqvist made eight saves and came away unscathed. They faced three separate 5-on-3 disadvantages, of 73 seconds, 19 seconds and 48 seconds.
Soon after the final penalty came off the board, the Rangers got on the board, as Michael Del Zotto rifled home a shot from between the circles at the 5:24 mark of the second to give New York a 2-1 lead. Mats Zuccarello and Kris Newbury picked up the assists. Zuccarello made a great pass to get the puck to Del Zotto in space.
Erik Christensen made it 3-1 with 8:16 to play in the second with a shot from a similar spot as Del Zotto. Zuccarello again had the primary assist, with Stu Bickel also picking up the second assist.
The Rangers nearly cashed in with a power-play goal at the buzzer, but Predators prospect Magnus Hellberg made the save for Frolunda, keeping the score 3-1 heading into the third period.
GOTHENBURG, Swe. -- They chanted "Hen-ke, Hen-ke, Hen-ke" for Henrik Lundqvist, who was made an ambassador of Gothenburg in a ceremony prior to Friday night's game. He was introduced to a huge ovation and got a chance to wave to the crowd while video clips of his part in Frolunda's celebration after the 2005 Swedish Elite League title were shown above him.
The moments prior to Friday's game here at the Scandinavium were touching, so emotional. I could only imagine what it felt like to be Henrik Lundqvist, who had been looking forward to this game for so long, both with excitement and nervousness.
He got a louder ovation than his old team. Everyone in the sold-out crowd was standing, including media members.
Lundqvist's brother, Joel, who is Frolunda's captain, took part in a ceremonial puck drop with Brian Boyle. The guy dropping the puck was Frolunda legend Ronnie Sundin, who played one game with the Rangers in 1997-98. He also played 67 with Hartford, but he spent the bulk of his playing career in Sweden.
It didn't take the Rangers long to score either. Kris Newbury buried a shot off the rush from the left circle just 2:24 into the game to give the visitor's a 1-0 lead.
However, two-and-a-half minutes later Lundqvist lost the puck after making a save and Jonathan Johnson buried a rebound shot from the high slot to make it 1-1.
The game remains 1-1 after the first period, but Frolunda has a two-man advantage for the first 71 seconds of the second period. Dylan McIlrath (cross checking) and Brandon Prust (interference) are in the penalty box.
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Lundqvist, of course, does not normally wear a letter for the Rangers, but this is his night in Gothenburg, in his old building against his former team, and the Rangers deserve credit for recognizing that by giving him the honor of a letter.
I wonder if Lundqvist even knew he was getting it, or it was just on his jersey when he got the arena. I'll have to ask him after the game.
The game is sold out, but when Lundqvist led the Rangers onto the ice for pregame warmups only half the stands were filled. Still, he got a loud applause.
Lundqvist only needs to look up at the championship banners here to remember one of the best times of his career. He led Frolunda to the 2005 Swedish Elite League championship. The banner will hang over his head in the second period.
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Don't let the headline fool you, because nobody on the current Rangers roster even was out of diapers in 1981. Heck, only four of the 33 players on the roster now even were born around this time 30 years ago.
So the players likely wouldn't know that this isn't the New York Rangers' first visit to the Scandinavium here to play the Frolunda Indians.
On Sept. 22, 1981, in the Rangers' first training camp under coach Herb Brooks, the Rangers beat Frolunda 7-1. It was part of a nine-game NHL/Europe tournament that included the Rangers, Washington Capitals, HIFK Helsinki, AIK Stockholm, Djurgarden Stockholm and Oulu Karpat.
Dave Maloney, who currently works for MSG as a Rangers radio and TV analyst, played in the Rangers' game against Frolunda. He's back in New York doing analysis on MSG on for Friday's game.
Frolunda's roster has some familiar names on it, including Lundqvist's twin brother, Joel, who used to play in Dallas. Joel Lundqvist is Frolunda's captain. Christian Backman, who played for the Rangers near the end of the 2007-08 season, is on defense for the Indians. Former Flyer Mika Pyorala will be the left win on the second line. Former Boston Bruin P.J. Axelsson is on the roster, but he's not in the lineup Friday.
Frolunda has five wins and an overtime loss in the first six games of its Swedish Elite League schedule.
GOTHENBURG, Swe. --Henrik Lundqvist will be the star of the show Friday night here at Scandinavium, but he won't have much of his NHL buddies playing for him. Rangers coach John Tortorella wants to get a look at some of the guys who for now are targeted for the AHL, a lot of the forwards that played Thursday in Prague will not be in the lineup against Frolunda.
The scratches who skated in the afternoon here include:
GOTHENBURG, Swe. -- Henrik Lundqvist has been waiting for this day ever since finding out the Rangers would be traveling to Europe to begin the season. He's back in the town where his star was born, where he won a Swedish Elite League championship, where his brother is now the captain of the local team.
Lundqvist will be in net Friday night to take on his old team, the Frolunda Indians, at his old stadium, the Scandinavium, in front of many old friends and family members. He has admitted there are some nerves to go along with his excitement.
I saw him this morning at breakfast at the hotel in Prague and, clad in his designer suit, Lundqvist looked as calm as ever. I saw him again when the team was unloading their luggage off the team bus in front of their hotel here in Gothenburg, and again he looked calm.
I likely won't see Lundqvist again until he hits the ice Friday night. I gotta imagine that at some point that look of complete composure will crumble just a little.
PRAGUE -- Michael Del Zotto and Tim Erixon were noticeable all game as they helped the Rangers to a 2-0 win against HC Sparta Prague on Thursday. Del Zotto had a key assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's power-play goal and Erixon was credited with a pair of assists -- his most important play was the pass that set up Artem Anisimov for the Rangers first goal.
However, Rangers coach John Tortorella wasn't exactly throwing out the superlatives to his two young defensemen, who are still trying to make the opening night roster.
Tortorella said evaluating Del Zotto and Erixon off Thursday's game is tough because of the larger international ice surface. Both are skilled skaters and puck-movers -- the kind of players who are always going to fare better when they have more room to operate.
"There is more room and it's hard to take time and space (away)," Tortorella said. "You could see we struggled with that in the first period. When we start playing in North America there is not going to be a lot of room -- and these situations, Michael and Erixon, players like that, are going to have to thrive in if they want to continue to get ice time.
"But they did some good things (Thursday)."
Tortorella already knows what Del Zotto is capable of in an NHL game on NHL-sized ice. Erixon is coming to the Rangers from Sweden, so he was noticeably more comfortable on the larger surface because that's all he knows.
That said, Tortorella did give the kid some praise, an obvious sign of how badly he wants Erixon to make the team.
"He's improving," the coach said. "He's playing a system that he hasn't played before. We've asked him to do some things he's not comfortable with. He's improving along the way here."
It's highly probable that both Erixon and Del Zotto will play again Friday in Gothenburg. The ice sheet will again be big, but there's nothing the coach can do about it.
"It's a puck-control type of situation where you're not going to have a lot of the same puck-control when you play in a North American arena," Tortorella said. "It's a different game playing in a big rink. My biggest fear is we don't get into bad habits because we're going to be playing on small ice once the season starts."
PRAGUE -- The Rangers arrived here Tuesday with three goals in mind: Continue to improve, win a hockey game and soak up some of the Czech culture.
They'll leave here Friday morning feeling good about accomplishing all three goals.
"We got some work on the power play and got some work on the penalty killing," coach John Tortorella said following a 2-0 win against HC Sparta Prague at Tesla Arena on Thursday. "We had a real good day (Wednesday) as far as working on our concept, not only on the ice but in the room as far as video. We just keep going about our business."
Tortorella mentioned numerous times how important Wednesday's practice was. He was not pleased with how his team played in Monday's 5-3 loss at Philadelphia or how they practiced Tuesday after arriving here following the eight-hour overnight flight.
But Wednesday was by far the Rangers most important day in Prague from a hockey standpoint because Tortorella for the most part was able to divide the team so the guys that will likely be on the NHL roster were in one group while the guys who are most likely heading to Hartford after Friday's game in Gothenburg were in the other.
"It was a very important day for me as far as the coaching staff," Tortorella said. "We're down in numbers and we've gotten near our game group, and we really buckled down on the ice as far as our game concept and then had a good video session. That's what we're going to keep pounding away on in the next few days."
PRAGUE -- The Rangers lead remains 2-0 heading into the third period. Anisimov and Fedotenko had the goals in the second and Biron continues to play a sharp game, leading to his shutout through two periods.
PRAGUE --Michael Del Zotto found Ruslan Fedotenko in front of the net for a power-play goal to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead with 11:30 to play in the second period here at Tesla Arena.
Derek Stepan started the play on the right wing, passing down to Del Zotto, who was near the goal line. Fedotenko cut to the net and Del Zotto found him for an easy goal with the man-advantage.
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PRAGUE -- The Rangers and HC Sparta Prague played a scoreless first period at Tesla Arena.
Rangers goalie Martin Biron was sharp throughout the entire period to keep it scoreless. He made four memorable saves, including one at the end of the period to stop Sparta on a 3-on-1 rush.
The Rangers didn't generate much, if anything, offensively and were not physical in the least bit. Perhaps that's just the Rangers feeling out Sparta, the ice and the building, but they just weren't very good in the first period, save for Biron.
However, the Rangers' penalty kill was strong as it killed off a pair of minors, to Brandon Prust and Brendan Bell. The Rangers' power play barely generated anything on its one chance through the first 20 minutes.
PRAGUE -- The arena started filling up around 6 p.m. local time, which is about when I started to make my way up to the press box, otherwise known as the press tribune here.
To say I never have watched a game from this perspective as a media member would be an understatement. For visual evidence, check this out (link to http://yfrog.com/h3tlqcgqj).
We are up top in the arena, which isn't too high considering it's about half the size of an NHL rink, and in the corner. It's actually not a bad view of the ice because I can see the full sheet with no obstruction. However, I can't see the scoreboard, so that should make tweeting and blogging interesting as the game goes on.
My laptop is situated on what looks like the top of a music stand that has been screwed onto the bars in front of the seats, which, by the way, are benches that fold up when you're not seated. If I tried to sit down, I would be too low to type, so I'll be standing for the entire game.
It's 6:30 here now and Marty Biron just led the Rangers onto the ice. There was a decent applause for them. The Rangers are wearing their home blues.
Sparta Prague, wearing their whites with the signature S on the chest, just came on the ice. The cheer was louder for them, and that's the way it should be considering this is their barn and these are their fans.
As the building continues to fill up, the teams are going through their warm-ups and I'm waiting for Rangers website writer Jim Cerny to get me a roster sheet. Hey, he said he would.
Well, since he probably won't, I'll have to make my way down to the press room, which is actually in the gymnasium here (you can't make this stuff up, folks) and grab the roster sheet for myself.
Replays will be hard to see, but I am looking forward to puck drop. I'll have updates after the first period and again after the second period. I'll also be live tweeting, so follow along because this game is not on TV.
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."
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.
"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."
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
PHILADELPHIA --New York Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer left Monday's preseason game against the Flyers early in the first period with what was diagnosed as a right shoulder sprain.
Sauer was run into the boards by Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. He hit the end boards awkwardly and was immediately taken to the dressing room.
With the Rangers set to travel to Europe after Monday's game, Sauer reported to the security screening at Wells Fargo Center wearing a sling. Rangers coach John Tortorella said X-rays on his right shoulder were negative, but he is thought to be out at least a week.
The Rangers are already without No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal, who has been suffering from headaches that are likely a result of a concussion he suffered last season. Staal will not travel with the Rangers to Europe, but the team remains hopeful that he will join them overseas before the start of the regular season on Oct. 7.
Rangers forward Sean Avery also had X-rays on the big toe on his right foot, which came back negative. He blocked a shot in the second period and spent the rest of the game icing his toe, which was bloody.
PHILADELPHIA -- Welcome to a blog that will focus strictly on the world tour the New York Rangers will embark on beginning Monday night from Philadelphia. I'll be on this 13-night, four-country trip the team and will be taking you through their days, providing some color on what the boys are up to, who makes the final roster, and of course, how they the beginning of their season in Stockholm against Los Angeles and Anaheim.
This is my fourth straight season going over to Europe to cover the Compuware NHL Premiere. It's my second time traveling with the Rangers as we were together in 2008 when they opened the season in Prague against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The trip begins Monday night from Philadelphia, where the Rangers are playing a preseason game and earlier in the day the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was officially announced. Shortly after the game at Wells Fargo Center concludes, we'll be bussing to the airport, where a plane awaits to take us to Prague.
We will land in Prague Tuesday afternoon local time. The schedule from there remains up in the air, but the first of New York's four preseason games in Europe is Thursday night at Tesla Arena against HC Sparta.
The Rangers also play in Gothenburg, Sweden on Friday, Bratislava, Slovakia on Sunday and Zug, Switzerland next Monday before traveling to Stockholm. They open the regular season Oct. 7 against Los Angeles and then face Anaheim on Oct. 8.
As long as you follow here you'll know exactly where the team is, what they're up to, who they're playing, who's playing well, who is not, what foreign cuisine I'm trying, and anything else you're interested in, however small it may be.
That said, there is already some major news. Marc Staal is not here in Philadelphia and will not be making the trip overseas with his team.
Staal, the Rangers No. 1 blueliner, has been having headaches believed to be from a concussion he suffered in February. The Rangers remain hopeful that Staal will join them in Europe sometime before they open the regular season against Los Angeles on Oct. 7.
The Rangers also trimmed two forwards off their current roster before the plane leaves the tarmac, Andreas Thuresson and Andre Deveaux. Coach John Tortorella was adamant prior to Monday's game that he knew who the team was going to take to Europe and provided there are no monumental surprises or debilitating injuries, the list is set.
Tortorella plans to have three goalies, 10 defensemen and 19 forwards in Europe for the final four preseason games. Some of them will obviously be coming home before the regular season begins.
To find out who, and anything else about the Rangers world tour, make sure you follow along with me. We'll go on this journey together.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.
— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals