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For Rangers, time has finally healed most wounds

by Brian Compton
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When Flyers goalie Brian Boucher denied Olli Jokinen's shootout attempt on the final day of 2009-10 regular season in Philadelphia five months ago, the New York Rangers' hopes of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs came to a screeching halt.

It's a moment that still haunts the Rangers, who opened training camp Friday morning at their state-of-the-art practice facility with hopes of turning things around in a major way.

"One of the worst summers I've ever had, knowing how close we were to reach our goal," Rangers captain Chris Drury told "Just knowing how close we were to (even) fourth or sixth place … it's just such a fine line where you end up and the position you set yourself up in. It's really the same line you say every year -- it just really shows you how important every single point, how important every single game is. You can't be giving points away in this League on any night."   

Because of the outcome of that aforementioned game at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers clinched a playoff spot and sent the Rangers home. Philadelphia then went on a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final, which created a lot of "what-if" scenarios in the minds of players and fans alike.

But Drury knows that a win against the Flyers that fateful afternoon wouldn't have necessarily meant a date with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I would never assume any of that," Drury said. "The one thing I know is, you get in; you have a chance. That'd be pretty disrespectful I think to not only the Flyers, but just to the game in general. I don't think anyone in here assumed that if we win that shootout, we're in the Finals. That's not how it works, but certainly we would have had a chance to lace them up against someone. You never know what can happen in sports."  

And that's what keeps that loss so painful, even while the Rangers began a new journey Friday morning in the suburbs of New York City.

"I still think about it to this day," defenseman Michael Del Zotto admitted. "One play could have changed the whole year. But it's extra motivation for the whole team going into this season."

"I've never played in the playoffs in the National Hockey League," hulking forward Brian Boyle added. "This was a really long summer. It was crazy. It got to the point where by July, I was ready to go to training camp. But to finally get going, it's good. There's always that anxiety leading up to camp. Seeing everyone, it's great. Summer was way too long. Just waiting for camp … it (stunk)."

The waiting is now in the past.

New York opened its second training camp under coach John Tortorella with vigorous skating drills without pucks. Drury believes the team came more prepared this year now that it knows what the coach demands from the very beginning of camp.

"I think we know more what to expect," Drury said. "We know what he wants out of each individual and what he wants out of his team. I think in any relationship, the more you're together in any role; you're going to learn more about the other person in the relationship -- whether it's in business, sports or your personal life. Time is certainly a good thing."  

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL


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