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Rozsival excited to go home

by Dan Rosen
BERN, Switzerland — Michal Rozsival knows he'll have to go to the podium Thursday in Prague to meet the media from the Czech Republic ready to fawn over one of their hometown heroes.

While the New York Rangers defenseman said he'll do his duty as one of a handful of Czech natives in town for the Bridgestone NHL Premiere, media relations staffers from the Rangers and the NHL should be alarmed that he may go kicking and screaming.

"Not really, no," Rozsival told when he was asked if he's ready to be the center of attention in Prague. "I'm not used to that. I don't really like the spotlight. I don't demand it or look for it, you know what I mean, but it's natural that it will sometimes come with what we do."

Rozsival even joked that he may call former Rangers' captain Jaromir Jagr, a Czech legend, and yell at him for not being with the club for this trip. Jagr signed this summer to play with Avangard Omsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

"Yeah," Rozsival said. "I'll have to tell him he's making me do all his interviews."

Although the normally reserved Rozsival will be forced to conduct most of his interviews in news conferences instead of in front of his locker stall over the next couple of days, he is excited that the NHL Premiere has finally arrived.

Rozsival was born in Vlasim, but has lived in nearby Prague for the last seven years — when he's not in New York, of course.

"When I was there in the summer I knew I was going to play back there, but I wasn't really thinking about it," Rozsival said. "As it got closer and closer and now it's here it really pops into my mind. We're leaving (Thursday morning). It's right around the corner. I am excited."

To be honest, he's also a tad anxious about all the attention that awaits him and fellow Czechs Petr Prucha of the Rangers and Tampa Bay forwards Radim Vrbata, Vaclav Prospal and David Koci, should Koci officially make it through the Bolts' final cuts.

"It has sunk in, and it makes me a little nervous sometimes," Rozsival said. "It is exciting, but there will be a lot of attention."

Rozsival expects the O2 Arena in Prague to be rocking come Saturday when the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning open the 2008-09 NHL regular season. He probably isn't even aware that the open practices on Thursday will be heavily attended as well.

"I know all the people are excited about the NHL in Prague, so I am expecting it to be a loud building," Rozsival said. "I'm not sure who are they going to cheer for. Hopefully it is for the Rangers, but maybe for both. Maybe they'll just cheer for hockey. I am not sure who the favorite is now that Jags is gone. I think if Jags was here we would have had a little bit of an edge."

Having Jagr around could have also helped the Rangers on the ice, but Rozsival believes his team is ready for the regular season to begin despite a less-than-stellar preseason record of 3-5 after back-to-back wins in Bern.

The Rangers were 1-5 against the NHL this preseason and scored only 12 goals. They busted out for eight against SC Bern on Tuesday and another four against Metallurg Magnitogorsk on Wednesday night to win the Victoria Cup.

"It definitely gives you a little bit of confidence in your own game," Rozsival said, talking specifically about the 8-1 win over SC Bern. "It wasn't the toughest opponent, but they played good hockey. Steve Valiquette had to make some big saves to keep us in the game. They came at us hard."

Eight of the 12 goals the Rangers scored in Switzerland came on the power play. On one hand, that's a great sign. On the other, the Rangers were not pleased with their 5-on-5 play.

"We definitely have to start playing better, playing more as a group on the ice in 5-on-5," Rozsival said. "The positive thing is the power play is working. If you can manage to play 5-on-5 without allowing a goal and get your power play working you have a good chance to win the game."

The Rangers hope the power-play keeps clicking this weekend in Prague, but in the two days leading up to the NHL Premiere, Rozsival will have to avoid having his power drained from the constant attention that awaits him.

It's not something he wants, but he knows he's going to get it.
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