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Outdoor experience could provide edge for Rangers

by Tal Pinchevsky

Long before lacing their skates against the New Jersey Devils for their 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the New York Rangers held a sizable advantage when it came to outdoor experience.

Fresh off their 7-3 win against the Devils, the hope is that experience will serve them well when they return to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday for their Stadium Series game against the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2), a team with practically no outdoor game experience.

"I think anytime you do something more than once it's going to help you prepare. It's going to help you know what to expect," said Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, who scored against New Jersey. "So I definitely hope we can have an advantage next game."

Hagelin is one of 10 Rangers who played in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but his stadium experience doesn't end there. He also is one of four Rangers, along with forwards Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, to have played outdoor games in college. Kreider also played for the United States as a 19-year-old in front of almost 78,000 people outside at Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, for a game at the 2010 IIHF World Championship.

So when the Rangers take the ice against the Islanders on Wednesday, they'll have spent considerably more time battling the elements in outdoor games. But with two important points on the line, they aren't ready to consider it a real advantage against their Metropolitan Division rival.

"I think for our group it's going to be another good experience in an 82-game schedule," coach Alain Vigneault said after the Rangers' win Sunday. "But I think if I'm from Long Island and I'm a player and coach I'm going to feed off this first opportunity for them. I don't see an advantage for one team or the other."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Monday he wasn't sure if that many outdoor games gave the Rangers any edge.

"I don’t know if there's an advantage," he said. "When we get there we're going to prepare the same way and go about our daily business and try to execute our game plan against the New York Rangers for that hockey game."

It's impossible to say if the Rangers' prior experience on the big stage helped them score six unanswered goals after falling behind 3-1 against New Jersey in the first period. But after relishing a big win in the Bronx, it was clear that they were looking to start fresh in another big game at Yankee Stadium.

"We have to enjoy this [Sunday] and get back to it [Monday]," said Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who scored twice Sunday in his first NHL outdoor game. "It's a big game Wednesday so we'll make sure we're ready to go."

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