The Rangers and Penguins are set to square off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year. And while many of the faces are the same, one of those faces now wears a new jersey.
Forward Carl Hagelin, whom the Rangers dealt to Anaheim at the NHL Draft last June, was acquired by the Penguins in January and will face his former squad in the postseason for the first time.
“I’m on the other side now,” Hagelin told reporters following Pittsburgh’s morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center. “I’m going to do everything it takes to win four games in this series. It’s going to be a good one. Two really good teams. I’m really excited.”
Hagelin spent parts of four seasons with the Rangers, including 73 playoff games in which he scored 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. The biggest, of course, was last year’s series-winner over the city he now calls home.
But does anything carry over from year to year, especially with the amount of turnover between the two squads over the last 12 months? Hagelin doesn’t think so.
“I’ve been on the other side for two straight playoff series. Now I’m on this side. I don’t know,” said Hagelin, who has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 37 games as a Penguin .”It’s a new season, new personnel, new players, new coaches, so you just try and do everything you can to help the team win.”
The new coach is former Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who like Hagelin joined the Penguins during the season. Sullivan said Hagelin is a player that can be slotted onto any line, and praised Hagelin’s ability to get acclimated to thew new room.
“He brings a lot of speed to our team regardless of what line he plays on,” Sullivan said. “He brings that element of speed and puck pursuit that helps us to keep the puck and get the puck back when we don’t have it. I think he’s been a big part of this team and the success its enjoyed over the last couple of months.”
That speed, according to Derick Brassard, has been the biggest reason for Hagelin’s success in the Steel City.
“They’re trying to play with speed, and that’s what he has,” said Brassard, who finished second on the Rangers with 58 points. “That’s his main asset. He’s playing with some good players and I’m pretty sure he was excited to get traded here and play on a good team and playing on a team that plays his style of play.”
Hagelin, who faced the Rangers four times with the Penguins and once as a Duck in December, said he knew there was a chance his former team would be waiting for him come April.
“I think that’s one of the first things I heard when I got here,” he said. “We played the Rangers pretty early on, too. I knew there was always a possibility, and then when it happened, it didn’t come as a shock, that’s for sure.”