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Road-weary Rangers used trip as bonding exercise

Friday, 10.14.2011 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Road-weary Rangers used trip as bonding exercise
After traveling more than 10,000 miles through four different countries in opening their season in Europe, the Blueshirts have several days to rest and practice before hitting the road once again.

The trip was 13 nights if you include taxiing into Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport at 3 o'clock Sunday morning.

The New York Rangers boarded their gigantic Delta 767 charter plane six times, including twice on Oct. 2, the day they woke up in Sweden, played in Slovakia and went to bed in Switzerland.

They visited four countries, including Sweden twice, during 12 full days.

They traveled approximately 10,800 miles, or 17,350 kilometers, starting with their trip to Philadelphia on Sept. 26.

The Rangers didn't win either of their two games in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere, but at least they gained two points in the standings and an experience that will never be forgotten.

"That's one thing I think we can take out of this. We've been with each other 24/7 the past two weeks, so we've definitely bonded as a team. We got to know the new guys better and they definitely got to know the rest of the guys on the team better. We can take that out of it, and that's good for the experience."
-- Ryan Callahan

"It definitely takes its toll, but we're treated like gold every step of the way," left wing Mike Rupp told NHL.com. "It wears on you after a while, but it's an experience that I'm definitely happy we got an opportunity to do."

Now it's up to the Rangers to grow from their European experience, one they say enabled them to bond in ways that other teams going through a relatively routine training camp never could.

"That's one thing I think we can take out of this," captain Ryan Callahan told NHL.com. "We've been with each other 24/7 the past two weeks, so we've definitely bonded as a team. We got to know the new guys better and they definitely got to know the rest of the guys on the team better. We can take that out of it, and that's good for the experience."

Added Rupp, one of those new guys: "It's a good way to get the fast track to getting familiar with the guys. This was a great way to establish friendships on the team."

But what about their chemistry on the ice?

As much as the Rangers wanted to get that in their four-game run-up to last Friday's opener in Stockholm against the Ducks, it was near impossible to do playing on the larger international ice.

To a man, the players repeatedly talked about how different the game is. John Tortorella said players fall into bad habits when they play on the bigger rinks.

"When I say bad habits, the players can't help but get into those because of the size of the (ice)," Tortorella said prior to the season-opener. "It's not that the players are lazy mentally and not doing things; it's a different game that is played in the bigger (rinks)."

It didn't help that the Rangers went without a full practice from the time they played in Prague to the time they got to Stockholm.

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They played four preseason games in five days in four countries. They were allowed to rest the other two days.

After losing 8-4 in Zug, Switzerland, on Oct. 3 -- their final game before getting to Stockholm -- Tortorella said he wished the schedule allowed him to practice that day instead of play another game.

"We just didn't have enough practice time," he said.

They do now.

The Rangers don't play again until Saturday on Long Island, so they're in the middle of a week that started with a double-session practice Monday, an off-day Tuesday for their annual golf outing and a practice Wednesday. They're off Thursday but will be back on the ice at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y., on Friday before heading to Long Island for Saturday's game.

The level of importance for the full week off grew after New York lost in overtime to Los Angeles and in a shootout to Anaheim in the NHL Premiere games.

"I think that's really big for us to have that week to not only adjust to the time zone and rest, but to be able to work on things," Callahan said. "We can look back on these two games and realize what we need to work on system-wise. It's nice to have the time to do it."

Time won't be their ally next week.

The Rangers will be back on a plane Monday, heading out west for a four-game set starting Tuesday in Vancouver. They also play in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg before returning home to finally open up the partially renovated Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27 against Toronto.

The Western Canada trip will bring the Rangers' total distance traveled to roughly 16,250 miles (26,150 kilometers) across six countries before their first home game.

We'll soon find out if all the miles were worthwhile.

"It's nice hanging with the boys and getting to know each other," forward Brian Boyle told NHL.com. "We want to win now. That's the most important thing."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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