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Rangers embrace daunting season-opening trip

by Dan Rosen
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The challenges in front of the New York Rangers are like hurdles on a track that only get higher with each one you clear.
And the finish line is nowhere in sight.
First, the Rangers have this two-week European excursion, which is taking them to five cities in four countries to play a total of six games. When they return home, the Rangers get a week in New York and one game on Long Island before they get back on the plane and head west for a four-game road trip to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
They won't play a home game until the Toronto Maple Leafs come to the partially renovated Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27.
"Our beginning of the year is pretty crazy," Rangers backup goalie Martin Biron told
No kidding.
There will be more challenges to come once the season motors into November, December and January as the team prepares for its part in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter classic against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 2. As part of that dceal, the team will have HBO's 24/7 series filming their every move in the lead-up to the game.


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First, though, the Rangers have to survive one of the most brutal travel schedules ever put together by an NHL team at the beginning of a season.
The Rangers are playing preseason games as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland, all in a matter of five days. They open the regular season with the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere in Stockholm against Los Angeles on Oct. 7 and Anaheim on Oct. 8.
They come home Oct. 9 and don't play again until they visit the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. After that, they head to Western Canada to start the four-game trip that begins with a game in Vancouver on Oct. 18.
"I don't know if it can break us, but I do think it can definitely make us," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan told "If we come out of that month on top or playing some good hockey, we put ourselves in a good situation. We have to look at it that way and not think if we don't do well it's going to hurt us. It's the matter of a mindset of going in and being prepared to deal with the travel and the road games. If we do that, we'll be OK."
Callahan continued to say that the team is looking at their crazy first month, which includes the second half of training camp being spent in Europe, as a "unique advantage," because they will have no choice but to come together and bond as a team away from any potential distractions.
"You look at it that way and it's a positive," Callahan said. "It's going to be tough with all the travel and then coming back just to go over to Western Canada, but it is what it is. It's something you just have to do and you do it."
That particular message -- it is what it is -- has been hammered into the team by coach John Tortorella, who sees the Europe trip as "a change of venue with some travel into it."
Tortorella said the Rangers will not change how they handle training camp even though the second half of it will be spent in various European rinks in cities such as Prague, Gothenburg, Bratislava and Zug.
While there will be less monotony to the camp than there would be if the Rangers were in North America the entire time, Tortorella said the players still will find themselves feeling some of the normal tedium.
He wants it that way. He expects it to be that way.
"It'll be in a different rink and a different time zone, but there is going to be some monotony to it," he said. "We can't complain or get flustered about what is going on because it's a little bit different. We're going to be going overseas, there is a little bit of travel and the time change so you have to worry about all of that, but as coaches and players, that's what our schedule is, so let's just go about our business.
"Our team has been very good and has bought into each and every day trying to be the best we can be. It's something we talk about all the time and we have to do that now."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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