Forward Michael Grabner spent five seasons with the Islanders, so he knows a bit about the history of one of the most heated rivalries in the National Hockey League. On Thursday night, he'll see it for the first time from a Rangers perspective
"I played against them already [with Toronto last season], but it's obviously different playing in this game, the rivalry. It's going to be a lot of fun," Grabner told NYRangers.com this week. "At the same time, I have to focus on what I need to do, worry about what happens on the ice."
Grabner, who was signed as a free agent this summer, is expected to skate on the team's fourth line with Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast, as well as help out on the penalty kill.
Games between these two longstanding, inter-city rivals brings out excitement grabs the attention of fans throughout the area. Grabner, 29, said he's looking forward to experience the rivalry on the Rangers end.
"It's a lot of fun," Grabner said. "You feel it around the city and the fans. It's a special game for them, too. The atmosphere is always great. They're a lot of fun. I think everyone is looking forward to this game. The fans, the players. It's going to be interesting to see how it is on this side."
Video: NYR@NJD: Grabner's tip-in brings Rangers within two
Grabner was brought in to help the Rangers' penalty kill, which finished 26th in the NHL a season ago. Grabner averaged 3:06 per game on the penalty kill a season go with the Maple Leafs, and figures to lead the way in New York as well. Since coming into the League for the 2009-10 season with Vancouver, Grabner's 12 shorthanded goals are sixth in the NHL.
"Just play my game," Grabner said when asked what he'll be focusing on once the puck has dropped. "They know the way I play and what I can do. Obviously try and help out the penalty kill this year and just use my speed."
After a long offseason, Grabner said the team is just looking forward to getting things started.
"Everyone is hungry in here to get going and have a good season," Grabner said. "Summers are long and hard, a lot of hours in the gym and what not. You just want to be out there playing games. The fun is starting. Everyone is looking forward to it."