Dupuis looked up with a wry smile and simply said:
"These teams don't like each other, huh?"
The remark drew a chuckle from all who heard it, but it actually spoke volumes to the differences between playing in New York and any other NHL city. After all, where else but in the tri-state area can you find three teams all within such a short distance of each other?
Dupuis, who came to the Rangers in a Feb. 9 trade with the Minnesota is one of two recently-acquired former Western Conference players getting their first taste of the Eastern Conference during an intense stretch run.
By the time Sean Avery
arrived from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5 and Dupuis landed in New York four days later, the Rangers were already in a kind of playoff mode, battling with several other teams to squeeze into the conference's top eight.
Given what's at stake in the playoff push, it's hardly surprising that the Blueshirts looked outside of their conference when it came time to make two trades designed to spark the team. With the ultimate trade deadline just days away, inter-conference deals are likely to be the norm.
"We look at everybody, of course," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. "But as much as you can, you try to do business outside of your conference and certainly outside of your division. Having said that, I think a lot of times it's just the way it works out. It's not always easy to do business with each other inside the fence."
In both Avery and Dupuis, the Rangers successfully identified two players whose styles were a good fit not just with the Blueshirts but with the Eastern Conference in general. Both players agree that the Eastern style offers more space and time to be creative with the puck, which helps explain why eight of the NHL's top 10 scorers play for Eastern teams.
"I think it's a lot tighter in the Western Conference defensively," said Avery. "I think it's a little bit more open in the East. I think it's a little bit more skill-oriented with skating and making plays. Which is good, you know, it's exciting because I've kind of been in the West where it's a chip-and-dump type game. Here you get a little bit more room and a little bit more time to think about making a play, so I like it so far."
Dupuis, one of the NHL's fastest skaters, agreed that there is a difference between the conferences.
"I'd say it's a faster pace," he said before taking the ice for the first time as a Ranger. "It seems like a more offensive-minded conference. But that's only based on watching it. I got to play in it to really feel it. It's probably more wide open. I can probably skate a little more than I'm used to from the West, so I can use my speed a little bit."
Based on their statistics, it's fair to say that both players have had no trouble adjusting to their new conference. Through his first eight games in a Rangers uniform, Avery already had a goal and four assists. Dupuis, meanwhile, managed to score in his Blueshirts debut on Feb. 15 at Carolina.
Renney is hardly surprised that these two players have made an immediate impact because of their backgrounds.
Dupuis gave the Rangers an instant burst of speed as well as help with their penalty killing.
"In both cases, they were very well coached," said Renney. "When you've got guys coming to us who've had good coaching, it certainly makes it easier for us."
Avery and Dupuis are not only excited to be playing in the East, but they're even more thrilled to be performing for the fans at Madison Square Garden. In Avery's case, New York was always the NHL city in which he had wanted to play.
"I had only played here once before in 2002 (with Detroit) and I remember how great it was to be walking to the rink and being in a city as big as New York, and having the rink right there. And the fans, too. I think they're pretty passionate, and I remember when I was here how hard of a time they give the visiting team. So that's the type of atmosphere I like to play in, and I'm kind of an intense guy, and when the fans are intense, it's easy to play. It makes it like having an extra guy on the ice."
Dupuis had even more familiarity with MSG before he arrived, and had also had success there.
"I had played there a couple of times, and I scored both times, so I kind of want to hit the ice again over there," said Dupuis. "It's always fun. It's always different with the atmosphere. Everybody always talks about the Garden, so it's good to play there."