PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Do you feel like a Ranger now? That question, posed to Markus Naslund and Wade Redden by NHL.com, may seem ridiculous considering the jersey they’re wearing and the city they now represent. However, considering the contributions the two veterans made in Prague, is it so wrong to wonder if they finally feel comfortable as New York Rangers?
Before this season, Markus Naslund had played his last 884 NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks and Redden had played all of his 838 games with the Ottawa Senators. Changing sweaters and addresses so quickly isn’t such an easy thing to do.
“Yeah, I do, I do,” Naslund said with a smile. “It’s happened quicker than I expected. I’m very happy to be a Ranger. It actually felt pretty natural how it all developed.”
Naslund and Redden combined for two goals and two assists this weekend in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere Prague and the Rangers won both games, each 2-1. Redden played more than 20 minutes in each game alongside defensive partner Michal Rozsival. Naslund, who was named an alternate captain Friday night by coach Tom Renney, averaged about 18 and a half minutes of ice time while playing with captain Chris Drury and fellow alternate Scott Gomez in both 5-on-5 and power-play situations.
Naslund scored the Rangers’ first goal Saturday, and Redden potted New York’s first goal Sunday thanks to a pretty feed to the high slot from Naslund. Redden assisted on Gomez’s game-winner by taking the initial point-shot.
“It just shows you the type of players they are,” Gomez said. “It’s only two games, but at the same time it shows you what those guys can do and the leadership they bring. Let’s face it, Wade was awesome and so was Nassy with the plays he was making.”
The key for both is that they seemed to jump right into regular season mode after stopping and starting for most of the preseason as they tried to get used to their new surroundings and teammates.
“Just getting through camp and being part of everything and with all the guys, for sure it feels good to integrate and be part of things,” Redden said. “I want to keep building on that. I think we’re coming together as a team, so that’s important.”
That Naslund and Redden weren’t deterred by their less-than-stellar play in the preseason proves how much experience matters.
When he arrived in Prague, Naslund said he still searching for his timing and his scoring touch. He left Sunday night with a goal and an assist, a hand in two of the Rangers’ four goals, and was saying he was comfortable both on and off the ice.
“We’ve been around long enough and even though preseason is important, we were looking forward to the regular season coming around,” Naslund said. “You want to contribute and be a part of it and play well to help the team win. It’s nice to see Wade playing as well as he has, and me having the chance to play with those guys is fun.”
Redden said he’s found out how important understanding the mental part of the game is now that he’s come to a new team.
“I think it takes a little time to get used to things and to get 100 percent to where you want to be, but it’s such a mental thing, too,” he said. “The regular season is a mental thing and you have to get yourself ready. Being around a while you know what you have to do.”
The arrival of Naslund and Redden signifies a change in the Rangers’ power play, which scored in both games this weekend. What used to be a European-style passing and waiting for a great shot to present itself power play has turned into a fire-at-will power play.
Gomez said Redden’s experience on the point is the reason why.
“Wade has been a quarterback of the power play since he’s been in the League so he understands to get it in,” Gomez said. “And (Rozsival), he’s picked up his play. You can tell he’s different this year. Once we get it to the net, we have (Chris Drury) sitting in front and that opens up other things. I mean, look at the pass Nassy made and Wade going to the net like that. When you establish the shot it opens up more, and that hurt us last year.
“It’s just the little things those two guys bring. This week was great to get to know certain guys better.”
In the end, Gomez and the rest of the players found out Redden and Naslund were ready to be Rangers all along.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com