PRAGUE, Czech Republic --
Rangers forward Petr Prucha
wants to know if anyone has any tickets to spare. If so, please let him know, because he needs them badly.
Prucha, of course, only needs his credential to get into the well-secured O2 Arena this weekend. He's expected to play for the Rangers. However, the native of Chrudim, Czech Republic, which is located about 75 miles east of Prague, has family and friends that are begging him for a coveted ticket to the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008.
"I would like to (have a lot of people here), but the game is sold out and we have 35 tickets for the whole team," Prucha said. "I have to figure out a way, how can I get them in. They're asking. I have like 150 people who want to go. We'll see."
Even if Prucha can't get all his family and friends inside the building this weekend, for him the event truly is special. He last played a real game in his native country in 2004-05, when he played for HC Moeller Pardubice.
Prucha's first international experience as a professional was at the 2004 World Championships, which were played in Ostrava and Prague. Many games, including the championship match between Sweden and Canada, were played at the O2 Arena, but at the time it was called Sazka Arena.
"It's really exciting," Prucha said. "I feel like I'm home."
FEELING SICK -- Ryan Malone
didn't dress for Tampa Bay's game against HC Slovan in Bratislava, Slovakia. But as he watched Slovan nearly beat the Lightning before Vinny Lecavalier took over, Malone said he could barely watch.
"Oh yeah, I told the boys my stomach was sick," Malone said.
Lecavalier scored the game-tying goal with 6:26 to play in regulation and then potted the shootout winner to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory. The Bolts finished the preseason with a 5-1 record.
"We're finding ways to win and that's a great sign, especially early on," Malone said. "We know we're still getting adjusted to (coach) Barry (Melrose) and more importantly to each other. It's going to take time, but we're finding ways to get the job done. That's a great sign that we're sticking together."
MISSING JAROMIR --
Not surprisingly, the Czech media attending the open practices Thursday wanted to know how the Rangers felt about not having Jaromir Jagr
anymore. Jagr is the biggest hockey star ever in the Czech Republic.
Rangers coach Tom Renney didn't discount the notion that the team misses its former captain, who is now playing for Avangard Omsk in Russia's new Kontinental Hockey League.
"I think so," Renney said. "I think Jaromir was such a huge presence on our team, obviously physically but even from his personality. He was a very engaging guy and extremely well liked by his teammates. There is something left in his wake, no question of that. But it's time to provide opportunity for someone else or others. Often times in cases like Jaromir's it takes a couple of players to replace someone like that, not just one."
"I think Jaromir (Jagr) was such a huge presence on our team, obviously physically but even from his personality. He was a very engaging guy and extremely well liked by his teammates. There is something left in his wake, no question of that." -- Rangers coach Tom Renney
That's the reason Renney has not named a captain yet. Chris Drury
and Scott Gomez
are the likely candidates, and it's possible they share the captaincy the way that Drury did with Daniel Briere
It's also possible the Rangers do not name a captain before Saturday.
GETTING AROUND --
Since the Lightning spent two days practicing in Prague before leaving for exhibition games in Berlin and Bratislava, forward Jason Ward
said he has taken time to walk around the city and finds it to be as advertised.
"It's a gorgeous city," said Ward, a former Ranger. "It's interesting walking through the streets. I'm used to walking through New York, where you see cars everywhere and honking horns and police cars. Here you just see a ton of people in a small area. It's the same type of thing, just a different atmosphere."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.