Prior to the team's flight to Raleigh this afternoon, Rangers captain Mark Messier spent some time answering questions on a National Hockey League media conference call.
Q. You're averaging 16 minutes of ice time this season, down two to three minutes from the past couple of seasons. As a result, how does your body feel as you approach the halfway mark this season and has the reduced ice time had you approach games differently now?
MARK MESSIER: I don't think so. I think up till right now, I am feeling good and I think that I've had a few bumps and bruises through the first half of the season but nothing too serious. That, obviously, is a big help -- playing with not a lot of injuries. I don't think two minutes really has anything to do with feeling that way. We have a lot of players on the team that can play a lot of minutes and trying to disperse that and find the players that are playing the best any given night is what's important for our team. And as far as I'm concerned, I didn't have any expectations going into the season. So whatever role the team needs me to play, I'm willing to do that.
Q. Have you changed the approach at all?
MARK MESSIER: I haven't, actually, at all. I don't think, going from whatever minutes I was playing to now, if it's two minutes or whatever, is that big a difference. For me, I've always said that it's just going in from game to game that presents different challenges and just trying to find different ways to win on every night is going to be different. So I haven't really changed my philosophy on that at all.
Q. Has playing with JED ORTMEYER and DAN LACOUTURE and CHRIS SIMON and MATTHEW BARNABY this year made you an effective two-way player?
MARK MESSIER: I don't really think so much. I think being a two-way player is something that was demanded of us a long time ago in our day starting out in Edmonton. Barnaby and Simon were put together in training camp and we played the first 25 games or so together and from training camp we became pretty familiar with each other. Jed Ortmeyer is going to be an excellent hockey player - he's a smart kid who is just getting better -- and Danny is a hard-working guy. Again, wherever they need me to play, I'm certainly more than willing to do that.
Q. Wondering what would be the number one thing you would do, if you were commissioner, to increase scoring in the NHL?
MARK MESSIER: I would go back to the way the game was played in the 80s. The offsetting penalties would create more room on the ice -- less players for larger percentage of the games -- and I think that alone would open the game up, make it more exciting. I don't know if we'll ever get as many goals as we scored in the 80s because the goaltenders, I think, are much better nowadays but I think it would create a little more excitement. I guess they did play a larger percentage of the games with less people on the ice. You'd still have your five-on-five hockey but you would have more four-on-threes, more three-on-threes, more four-on-fours throughout the game to create some flow and a little more end-to-end hockey.
Q. The city of Indianapolis didn't have a long-standing hockey tradition but you and Gretzky were two of the names that came through that town. What are your memories of playing in Indianapolis, and when you think about 20 years ago, does it surprise you that your career came up through that area?
MARK MESSIER: Well, when I was growing up, the WHA was a pretty important part of hockey at the time. Starting in the early 70s there, they kind of built themselves a pretty good reputation and the league went on for 10 or however many years, I can't remember. But, it was a pretty solid league for a long time and that's right about the time where I was kind of getting to the point where I was playing midget and junior hockey and ended up playing the last year of WHA.
So from that standpoint, I guess a lot of players and a lot of good players went to the WHA and, as we know, there were some interesting cities that were part of the WHA. So it doesn't really surprise me that the WHA was able to bring them on and develop some of the young players that are known today. But for me personally, it was just a start to my pro career, which obviously I'm pretty proud of.
Q. As you've done for the last couple of years, will you sit down in the summer and take it year by year? You haven't made any plans for next year?
MARK MESSIER: No, I haven't. It's been good for me to do it that way. It's allowed me to really concentrate on the season at hand, not get wrapped up into thinking about my future, when obviously you have to be pretty present in the game that demands a lot of your time and energy. It's allowed me just to enjoy the season game-to-game and not put any pressure on myself having to make a decision as the season goes on.
Q. A lot of guys are having trouble scoring; how come you've got 13 goals?
MARK MESSIER: I don't know. I've always been a little bit of a streaky scorer and got hot early in the season. I think Simon and Barnaby and I were thrown together in training camp and had all training camp to play together and found some chemistry and success early in the season. I've always been a bit of a streaky scorer, I don't really have any explanation for it.
Q. Earlier you talked about wanting more four-on-fours and four-on-threes. What about the red line and moving the nets back?
MARK MESSIER: I'm a traditionalist in regards to the way the game has been played and the rules and things. I think when you start tampering and changing too many things, I think it hurts the credibility of the game and what's gone on in the past -- records and things like that. I don't think the game needs a lot of changes. I think that everybody talks about the players being bigger, stronger and faster, and you need more room. Well, in the 80s we had more room even back then because we played a larger percentage of the games with less people on the ice. Putting the tag-up rule back in and keeping the game moving and taking that whistle out of the play, and the off-setting penalties I think would open the game up a lot. You'll see a lot more skill on the ice with a lot more room to do their skating and shooting and passing. And I think with those couple of changes, you'd see a big difference.
Q. Had anyone told you 20 years ago that you would be playing at the age of 43, what would have been your response?
MARK MESSIER: Well, there have been some interesting years, so I don't think anybody could have predicted that. I don't think anybody really comes into the League thinking they are going to play 20 years. I know when I came in the League, my focus was on trying to first of all make the team. Then once you establish yourself as a player, you try to figure out how to win a Stanley Cup. And so that's a focus as a young player coming to the League and trying to be a part of a winning team -- and not how long you're going to play or how many goals you're going to score or things like that. As the years have gone by, it's just seemed to add up, but that certainly wasn't my intention as a youngster coming into the League.