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Foe, proximity have Rangers excited for Classic

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Foe, proximity have Rangers excited for Classic
The Rangers are anticipating another intense, physical confrontation when they meet the Flyers in the Winter Classic.
PHILADELPHIA -- Marian Gaborik admits he has always admired the festive feel that seems to accompany the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
 
He's also grateful that he'll have an opportunity to experience that first-hand when his New York Rangers travel to Citizens Bank Park to face the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Classic set for Jan. 2.
 
"It always seems like a holiday for people that attend this type of hockey game," Gaborik told NHL.com Monday during a press conference to announce this year's participants on Monday.
 

"It's a great way to start your career in New York -- to come in and with Europe and HBO involved and now this. To be able to learn about it all in the first three months here, it's going to be busy, but they will all be great experiences and something I'll remember for the rest of my life." -- Rangers' center Brad Richards

"Everyone watches it and you root for a team and it's the center of attention," Gaborik said. "Everybody I've talked to has had positive thoughts about it. Hopefully the weather will be good and we can win the game."
 
Winning is certainly something on the mind of both teams. In particular Rangers General Manager Glen Sather and Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who each predicted victory to the delight of the 1,500 Flyers' fans in attendance in the seats along the first-base line.
 
"Mr. Snider is one of the greatest owners I've ever been associated with in all my years in hockey and I have a great deal of respect for him and his hockey club," Sather said. "But when we come to Philadelphia, we're coming to win."
 
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said he's anticipating another intense, physical confrontation when the two teams meet for the third time during the 2011-12 campaign.
 
"It's a special event and one I've followed the last couple of years," Callahan told NHL.com. "To get the chance to play in it will be a lot of fun. It's going to be an amazing atmosphere in front of this many fans and it'll be the largest crowd I've ever played in front of, so I'm excited for it, the Rangers are excited and the fact it's the Flyers makes it that much more special."
 
Despite the fact he was born in Rochester, N.Y., and grew up a Buffalo Sabres fan, Callahan can certainly appreciate the tremendous rivalry between the two storied organizations. The Rangers and Flyers have met 308 times, including regular season and playoffs, in their history.
 

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"Since I was a Sabres fan, I didn't follow (the rivalry) too closely, but you watch the videos and hear stories from past players -- guys like (Mark) Messier and (Adam) Graves and there is a lot of history here," Callahan said. "Even the last couple of years playing against them, and losing to them on the last day of the regular season to lose out on a playoff spot two years ago -- that was big game. It's going to be pretty intense and it's something I think we're looking forward to."
 
Brad Richards, who signed a nine-year, $60-million contract during the offseason, admitted the hype that will surround the contest is exactly why he signed with New York.
 
"It's a great way to start your career in New York -- to come in and with Europe and HBO involved and now this," Richards told NHL.com. "To be able to learn about it all in the first three months here, it's going to be busy, but they will all be great experiences and something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
 
Richards smiled when asked what he was doing during the previous four Winter Classic contests.
 
"We'd go over each other's houses on New Year's Day and hang out and watch this game," he said. "I loved it when you see the snow falling. It kind of brings the fun and the history back with growing up and playing hockey outdoors. It's refreshing."
 
As for the rivalry, Richards is all-too-familiar with the Flyers' physical style since he played six-plus seasons in the Eastern Conference with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He can only imagine how intense the Flyers-Rangers matchup will be and it's something he is anticipating with relish.
 
"(The rivalry) is well known," Richards said. "That's part of being an Original Six and Philly is pretty much like an Original Six. There's a lot of history there too, so that's what was so exciting about signing here."
 
Callahan, whose 48 points last season placed him in a second-place tie with Gaborik in team scoring, knows having the 'C' on his jersey will certainly add to the excitement when he strolls out from the players' dugout onto the outdoor ice surface at Citizens Park in four months.
 
"I think it makes it a little bit more special wearing the 'C' on my sweater and be able to perform in an event like this and represent the Rangers is something I'm looking forward to," he said. "I was thrilled when I heard we would be playing.
 
"We had a pond right up the street from me when I was younger that we always used to go up and play on. It's kind of where we spent a lot of days and nights after school. To be able to go outside and play an NHL game is pretty cool."
 
Gaborik, who compared the exchange between Sather and Snider to "two boxers in a press conference," is sure about one thing -- the game will include a lot of highlight-reel hits.
 
"Whether we're at MSG or in Philly, the fans are great and the games are physical -- everybody wants to win so there's always extra preparation from everyone on those games and it won't be any different on Jan. 2."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

 
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