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Callahan Holds Out Hope For Opener Despite "Slim Chance"

by Jim Cerny / New York Rangers

Though Rangers captain Ryan Callahan told reporters on Saturday that he's had "no problems" with his surgically-repaired shoulder so far in training camp, he admitted that there is only a "slim chance" he'll be ready to play when the Blueshirts kick off their 2013-14 season in Phoenix on October 3rd.

"I'm trying to work my way back as soon as I can here with rehab and strengthening my shoulder," explained Callahan. "I'm not going to put anything out of my mind until that day (opening night) has passed. I think there's a slim chance that could happen, but I'm not going to say No until that day has passed."

Callahan took part in the conditioning testing on Thursday---with head coach Alain Vigneault noting on Saturday that both he and fellow rehabbing forward Carl Hagelin "tested well"---and has spent the next two days practicing without contact with Group C, which consists of prospects and injured veterans like himself. The next major step in Callahan's return will be when he is cleared for contact.

"I'd rather be with the main guys, and doing contact with those first two groups, but at the same time it's part of the game," stated the 28 year-old, who is entering his third season as captain of the Blueshirts. "I don't think I'll be behind at all with the new systems. I am going to learn them right along with the other guys, and I'll be able to watch it in pre-season games. So I'm not worried about systems, I just kind of wish I was out there with the guys and battling with them and doing the workload of training camp with them."

Callahan does have Hagelin alongside him, going through the same rehab and slow steps to a return following the same labrum surgery Callahan had on his shoulder this past summer. And that, at least somewhat, is a plus for the Rangers on-ice leader.

"It definitely helps having a guy going through it with you, espcially once we start the bag skates," confirmed Callahan. "We're doing the same workouts in the gym together, and you can bounce things off each other when you are a little bit frustrated and you want to play. It's nice to have a guy going through the same thing, for morale."

While Callahan, a three-time 20-goal scorer, is unable to show the new coaching staff all of his game just yet, it doesn't mean that the team captain is not already forging an important relationship with the new head coach. Captain Cally confirmed on Saturday that he and Vigneault have begun their dialogue already on the coach-captain relationship.

"It is a process, we have to get to know each other's personalities," Callahan said of his rapport with Vigneault. "It's important for me to communicate with him what the team's feeling, and vice-versa what he's feeling about the team. That's a relationship I am looking forward to building. It's going to take some time, but I think we are off to a good start. We're pretty open with each other so far in how we feel."

Added Vigneault, "If he was named captain of this team it's obvious he's got the power to influence his teammates the right way. The captain and assistants and core group guys are an extension of the coaching staff. You don't always need a coach around to do the right thing. As far as Cally, that's what I expect from him, to be an extension of me and my staff. And so far everything I have heard about him dictates that he's that way."

When the team takes part in its first scrimmage of training camp on Sunday, Ryan Callahan will be an interested observer, albeit one who is itching to be out there participating. But that day of participation---of Callahan's return to the lineup---is on the horizon, even if the exact date is still unknown.

When it does come it will be a welcome day indeed for the New York Rangers.

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