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Rangers soaking in Winter Classic experience

by Dave Lozo
PHILADELPHIA -- Before the Rangers took the ice at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday for their outdoor practice before the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Monday, the players lined the visitors dugout in the jerseys they will wear when they face the Flyers.

Some players stood on the top step of the dugout and soaked in the scene.

Backup goaltender Martin Biron showed off his mask that had a camera attached to the top and explained to coach John Tortorella that the camera had nothing to do with HBO's "24/7" show, much to the coach's relief.


Winter Classic start time moved to 3pm
The NHL, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, announced Monday's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will start at 3 p.m. ET. READ MORE ›
Brandon Prust acted as though he was a manager sending in signals to his third-base coach. He ended the series of signals by pretending to swing a bat. That seems like an obvious tip-off that he's calling for his hitter to swing away.

"Ah, but that's the signal to not swing away," Prust explained.

It was a fun and festive atmosphere for the Rangers, but they received a quick reminder as to where they were as they filed out of the dugout and walked toward the ice.

Some of the employees at the stadium began booing them, causing a few of the players to crack a smile in what was a slightly serious moment before practice.

"That was neat," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "You definitely knew you were in enemy territory. You're in Flyers country. It adds to it and makes it more exciting for tomorrow. Hopefully there will be some more Rangers fans here tomorrow."

When Brad Richards signed his nine-year deal with the Rangers this summer, he's talked at times about how he wanted to play for an Original Six team in a big market for games like this. He also appreciated the fact that he's now part of a rivalry that's so intense that getting booed during practice can be expected.

"We got booed today by the people cleaning the seats," Richards said when asked what he's expecting from the more than 45,000 fans that will be in attendance Monday. "I can't imagine it will be any different tomorrow. It's part of the privilege and joy of what we get to do. It's part of sports. It's why get to play. It's because of the fans. It's because they care. If they're working, they still care about booing us. It's great."

After about an hour of practice, the Rangers brought family members onto the ice, a tradition that started at the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago.

Michael Del Zotto took a few laps around the rink with his mother on his arm. John Mitchell was pushing a stroller around the ice. Michael Rupp's son and daughter, both wearing No. 71 jerseys with "Daddy" on the back where the name would be, were all smiles.

Biron's son Jacob stole the show. Emulating his dad, Jacob was skating in full goalie equipment. But he took time to interview Henrik Lundqvist and Derek Stepan on camera for the Rangers' Web site.

br /> It was a full day of fun that will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the Rangers. Less than 24 hours later, they will have to push all that aside to focus on a regular-season game that comes with a lot of hype and pageantry but is worth the same thing as the other 81 games that will be played -- two points.

"That's going to be the trick," Lundqvist said. "There's going to be a lot of distractions out there. It's not going to be a normal game. It's going to be so different. Just being prepared for that. It's not going to be the way it is walking out to the ice at Madison Square Garden. It's going to be a lot different. A lot of things are going to pop up into your head probably going into the game."

"It's a test, being able to push everything aside when they drop the puck. I think a lot of guys are going to think about a lot of things being out there. It's a great experience. We have to be able to enjoy it and take it in but at the same time, do your job."

Tortorella has no worries about his team being able to focus once 3 p.m. ET rolls around.

"I trust the team," he said. "Sometimes during the season where the coach worries, 'Is the team going to be ready to play?' I trust they will be able to handle the momentum swings, and the hype of this."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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