NEW YORK -- Outdoor hockey is nothing new for New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who grew up playing on a pond near his home in Rochester, N.Y.
He'll get the chance to play outdoors again in January, when the Rangers face the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
“It's where you kind of grew up on the game, and where you had the most fun was outside on the rink," Callahan said Thursday at Yankee Stadium, where the Rangers will face the Devils on Jan. 26 and the Islanders on Jan. 29. “I had a pond not too far from my house we used to go out and play on, and just being outside in this atmosphere, it definitely brings back memories of that."
Callahan has had NHL experience playing outdoors as well. On Jan. 2, 2012, he and the Rangers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. He feels that having that experience under his belt should make the games at Yankee Stadium less of a mystery.
“Last time you weren't sure what to expect," Callahan said. “Coming into this game you know what to expect, you know the hard parts of the ice and things like that, but I'm just excited to be here at Yankee Stadium and get a chance to play this game."
Callahan is looking forward to the intense atmosphere that New York-area rivalry games produce.
“Any time we play the Devils or the Islanders it's always a hard game, a hard-fought game," he said. "To do it outside now in front of a big crowd like this, with the excitement of Super Bowl week, it's going to amp things up even more."
Callahan suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during the 2012-13 season and underwent successful offseason surgery to repair the problem. He began skating again last week, though he may not be ready for the start of the regular season.
“I'm skating now, pretty soon I can start shooting, so come training camp time I'll be able to do shooting and skating," Callahan said. “I think the big thing with the shoulder is contact; you have to just see how that goes as it progresses and as it gets stronger. We don't have an exact timetable until it gets closer."
With Alain Vigneault having replaced John Tortorella as coach, the Rangers are in a period of transition and will need to rely on their captain to smooth the transition. Callahan knows he has to be a major part of that transition, on and off the ice.
“I always think the captain is an arm of the coach and has to extend what he's trying to do or what he's trying to teach to the players the best you can -- and vice versa, communicating what the players are thinking to the coach," he said. "That's a relationship we have to build with AV, and as I get to know him better I think that's something that we'll work on."
Callahan thrived under Tortorella, one of the NHL's most intense coaches, but said he's not worried about any style changes under Vigneault.
“I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to work hard and do whatever it takes to try to win hockey games," Callahan said. “There will be things within systems that you tweak, or where you are on the ice. But your style of play can't really change, I mean it's who you are as a player."