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Callahan's versatility a boon to Rangers

Tuesday, 09.22.2009 / 3:00 AM / 2009-2010 Season Preview

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has no idea whether right wing Ryan Callahan will earn a roster spot for the United States Olympic Team for the 2010 Games.

What he does know is that a player with Callahan's versatility would be a great asset to any team involved in a short tournament -- including the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Callahan plays for the Rangers, so Tortorella has seen his competitive verve up close and personal.

"Ryan Callahan is a guy who blends in, especially in a short tournament," Tortorella said. "When you have a versatile guy, that's very important because there may be an injury along the way, and when you have someone who can do a lot of different things and play in different situations, that's an important guy to have. Am I telling you he's going to make the team? I don't have any information, but I do know those types of players are important to a team."

Callahan earned the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award with the Rangers last season after establishing career-highs in games played (81), goals (22), assists (18) and points (40). What fans most admired about the 2004 fourth-round draft pick was his gritty mentality -- he finished fourth in the NHL with 265 hits. He saw time on the power-play and on the penalty-kill, averaged just over 17 minutes a game in total and led the Rangers with a plus-7 rating.

"I like to go out there and throw the body around, and if there are guys needed to do that for Team USA, I'm willing to do it," Callahan said. "It's exciting knowing you have a shot to play for the Olympic team."

The Rochester, N.Y. native was one of 34 players invited to the U.S. Olympic Men's orientation camp in Woodridge, Ill. in August. He was one of two Rangers at the three-day event, joining team captain Chris Drury.

"The camp was what I expected," Callahan said. "I think it was good we got everyone together and got to know these guys a lot more than you do by just playing against them. We learned a little of the system we're going to be playing in Vancouver and it was fun."

A system, in fact, that was very familiar to Callahan.

"From what I can tell, if I do make the team, it won't be too big a transition for me and obviously that's a positive," Callahan said. "It's up-tempo. But they didn't teach us the whole thing. It was just the basics."

"Ryan Callahan is a guy who blends in, especially in a short tournament. When you have a versatile guy, that's very important because there may be an injury along the way, and when you have someone who can do a lot of different things and play in different situations, that's an important guy to have." -- Rangers coach John Tortorella

Callahan admits the fact Tortorella is an assistant coach for Team USA made no difference -- it was business as usual.

"It's a professional relationship," Callahan said. "He's a professional guy and that's how he goes about it. Maybe a couple of times he'll come up to me and say I'm watching you a little differently and there's a little more edge in his voice, but it's the same thing as when he's coaching us in New York."

And in New York, Callahan has relished his role through his first three NHL seasons.

"I'm a guy who can go out there, create some energy and throw my body around in a third- or fourth-line role," Callahan said. "I'll try to take the other team's top guy off their game and when I get the chance put the puck in the net. I want to improve point-wise and I want to keep progressing like I was at the end of last year when Torts took over. I'd like to continue with that and get us in a good position in the standings."

Callahan had 9 goals and 17 points in the final 19 games of the regular season, then had 2 goals in seven postseason games. He also led the Rangers with 25 hits and 19 shots in the playoffs.

In 147 NHL games, Callahan has 34 goals, 59 points and 85 penalty minutes.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


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