Between the end of last season and the start of this one, so much is different in the life of Jacob Trouba, and among the adjustments he has had to make is simply getting used to life in New York City. "For one thing, not having a car out the backdoor, that's a different kind of thing," Trouba was saying on Tuesday. "But I'm having a good time just walking places, walk anywhere and go and do so much. But yeah, it's different than anywhere I've ever lived.
"Never a dull moment here," Trouba added. "Never a boring day."
As a hockey player, Thursday's game in the heart of Trouba's new city is sure to be different than any game he's ever played, and anything but a dull date on the schedule. Thursday night on Broadway, he will make his long-awaited debut in a Blueshirt when, it just so happens, his new team hosts his old one, the Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets on Opening Night at the Garden.
There are any number of reasons for Trouba to circle that game on his calendar. He sees one reason above all.
"My first game as a Ranger," Trouba said following the Rangers' practice on Tuesday in Westchester. "That's the thing on my mind more than anything. Whenever we play (Winnipeg), I just don't really read a whole lot into that. It'll be different playing some of those people, and playing against the jersey will probably be the biggest difference. But once the game starts it's just another opponent, and it'll be more fun than anything."
Before the Rangers acquired him in a June 17 trade, Trouba played his first six NHL seasons with the Jets, who made him the No. 9 pick of the 2012 Entry Draft, and for whom he reached a career high with 50 points last season. Trouba said he and his Winnipeg teammates would always look forward to their once-yearly New York trip to play the Rangers, Devils and Islanders -- "It's just a fun place to be, and we looked forward to playing at MSG," he said. It appeared especially fun for Trouba, who made four Garden visits as a Jet and had points in three of them, a total of five assists in four games on Broadway.
But while he understands how special a moment it will be to pull on the Blueshirt for the first time in a regular-season game, Trouba says the less he thinks about it in the moment, the better.
"Just go out and play, that's all I want to do," he said. "Being excited about my first game at MSG, the whole thing, you can build it up as much as you want or not. I have to view it as another game. I mean, I'll look back on it and it'll be a really cool memory, but I play better, and I'm just more of a confident player I guess, when I just stay mellow and don't get too jacked-up about the whole thing. Just go play a game."
The Rangers knew how Trouba plays the game when they went out and got him: A righty blueliner with size and skill who can eat minutes, kill penalties, and run a power play, which he did to enticing effect when most of the Rangers' No. 1 PP unit was together early on in the preseason. But the Rangers have learned even more about him since.
"The thing that has surprised me -- and I knew he was a smart player -- is how smart he is," David Quinn said. "He has great vision, he passes the puck well. He's going to help us get out of our end easier, and obviously he gives us a physical presence as well. But he is a smart hockey player."
When Trouba saw the announcement of the home-opener opponent over the summer -- four days after he was traded to the Rangers -- and had a pretty mellow reaction then, too. "You just had to laugh," he said. "First we did one of those double-takes, like, Really? Come on, what are the chances of that?"
Then as now, Trouba has a game at the Garden circled on his calendar, but so much is different now.
"It's always different on Opening Night, anywhere you go, but this one of course is going to be special," he said. "And fun too -- I mean, you wait all summer for this. And here it is."
The Rangers practiced on Tuesday one day after making their final cuts of Training Camp, and while this current 22-man roster will undoubtedly undergo its tweaks throughout the season, Henrik Lundqvist was feeling good for the young players who had survived camp and stuck around -- because he remembers how gratifying that feels.
Lundqvist made the Rangers out of his first Training Camp with the team, in the fall of 2005; seven months later he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Now, he is excited to see players like Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Lias Andersson and others take the early steps down their own paths.
"It's an exciting time for sure," Lundqvist told NYRangers.com. "I remember, first camp, you're on edge the whole time and you're just never sure what's going to happen. In my case, you know, you left everything to come here. Most of these young kids, they come from somewhere that they had a life, and now they've come here to try something. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and it's a rollercoaster for sure -- the ups and downs during camp. And then when you get that call that you know you're going to start the season here, it's very exciting, and it's very motivating too."
Lundqvist may have a particularly soft spot for his countryman Andersson; the goaltender played with Lias' dad, Niklas Andersson, for four seasons with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League, when Lias "was running around in the locker room, probably 5 years old, playing with a little hockey stick. And now to see him here, it's obviously a long journey.
"He is a great kid and I'm really happy for him," Lundqvist said. "I told him before practice, he's had a great camp. He came well prepared and worked really hard. Good for him."