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McDonagh, Miller already finding comfort level with Lightning

Relish joining former Rangers teammates Girardi, Callahan, Stralman

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- It didn't take long for Ryan McDonagh to hear from Dan Girardi, his good friend and longtime New York Rangers teammate, after being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.

McDonagh said Girardi texted at 3:30 p.m., about 30 minutes after reports of the trade began circulating.

"He was excited, pumped to see me join the team," McDonagh said Wednesday. "I'm very fortunate to have him and some other [former] teammates. That will really help with the transition."

McDonagh, a defenseman, and forward J.T. Miller were traded to the Lightning by the Rangers for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, forward prospect Brett Howden, defenseman prospect Lidor Hajek, a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Miller is expected to make his Lightning debut against Buffalo Sabres at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SUN, MSG-B, NHL.TV). McDonagh will not play because of an upper-body injury.

Video: McDonagh on being moved to Tampa Bay

McDonagh and Miller will become the fourth and fifth players from the 2013-14 Rangers to play for Tampa Bay this season, joining defenseman Girardi, forward Ryan Callahan and defenseman Anton Stralman. But McDonagh doesn't want to hear any talk about the 2018 Lightning becoming "Rangers South."

"It is kind of a crazy coincidence," McDonagh said, "but if you ask me, I hope that doesn't stick much longer past today, because I'm proud to be a part of this team. I'm proud to be a Tampa Bay Lightning, and I want to help add to the success they've had this year and do something special."

McDonagh, 28, who was Rangers captain, had 26 points (two goals, 24 assists) in 49 games with New York this season. He said he hopes to play his first game with the Lightning when they visit the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. 

"That's what we're shooting for," he said. "The coaching staff and management said not to rush, make sure I'm 100 percent comfortable and confident that I can go out and play the way I need to play."

Miller, 24, will play on a line with Tyler Johnson and Chris Kunitz against Buffalo. Miller had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 63 games with the Rangers this season.

"It's awesome to be here," Miller said. "Such a fun hockey team to watch around the League and it's a really good opportunity, so I'm looking forward to it.

"It's a really talented group. Lot of skill and speed. I think if I can just bring [some] physicality and try to get to the net, and let these guys make plays with the puck, that would be helpful."

Video: Bolts acquire McDonagh and Miller from NYR

The moves will add more quality depth to one of the most talented rosters in the NHL. Tampa Bay (43-17-3) has the most points in the NHL (89) and leads the Atlantic Division by four points over the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Callahan said he expects McDonagh and Miller to blend in quickly and help the Lightning for the stretch run. 

"J.T. is a guy that can play all throughout the lineup and he's going to bring a lot to our team with his size, his physicalness and his skill on the wing," Callahan said. "And McDonagh, it's so hard to add a top-four defenseman of his quality this time of year. He's going to add so much to what we already have back here."

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