All-Star defenseman Brian Leetch's return to the Rangers lineup tonight helped pay immediate dividends. After missing the previous 31 games with a left ankle bruise, Leetch collected an assist in New York's 1-0 win, leading to words of praise from many throughout the New York dressing room.
GLEN SATHER "You guys saw it. Three days ago I didn't think he could play and then yesterday he told me his knee had progressed enough to play. Then he jumped in, I don't know how many minutes he played but it must have been over 20 minutes. He is phenomenal; there aren't many offensive players like that. He made passes, tossed the puck away and blocked shots. He is a phenomenal hockey player and played a great game."
"I mean it's great to see someone block shots but in his case I would rather see him not block shots. You are not going to stop him from blocking shots. He is a true warrior. I don't know many guys like him."
MARK MESSIER: "He's still the most important player on the team. He has been since he put on the jersey. He has got as much courage and heart than anybody I've ever played with. He showed it coming off the injury. He had an unbelievable game tonight."
"He logs the minutes, he's a threat offensively, he's unbelievable defensively. He's killing penalties and blocking shots again tonight. He gives everybody confidence, he makes everybody around him better. He plays with courage and heart and it rubs off on everybody."
MIKE DUNHAM: "He is solid. I got to play with him one game last year in the Olympics and tonight you can just tell why he is a real class hockey player. He is so smooth and calm with the puck. He is confident and skates so well, it is a joy to watch him."
BRIAN LEETCH: "Yesterday after practice when I was icing it, I talked with (Rangers Medical Trainer) Jim Ramsay and told him that if I felt good in the morning I would like to try and play. It wasn't getting any sorer these last few practices and it was feeling the same in the morning. I thought that if it felt the same, I should give it a try. I was nervous, but it was okay."
"I felt okay passing the puck and when I had the puck. Without the puck I felt like I missed 31 games, trying to read the play and it seemed like everything is happening a little faster. When I had the puck I felt pretty good."