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Puempel to Face Former Team Tonight in MSG Debut

Rangers On Facing Former Teammate Derick Brassard

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers forward Matt Puempel is insisting tonight's visit from the Senators is just another game on the schedule, despite spending parts of six seasons in the Ottawa organization.

"It's been exciting playing here and getting my feet wet the other night in a 1 o'clock game in Philadelphia, a rivalry game. It was a lot of fun," said Puempel, who scored in his debut Friday afternoon. "Definitely enjoyed playing in that game and it was nice to come away with the win. Today is a little different with playing a former team. I spent a lot of time there in that organization, but I'm going to treat it like any other game day and just have my meal, have my nap and be excited to play."

Puempel appeared in 52 games with Ottawa over three seasons, amassing four goals and two assists for six points before being waived last Sunday by the Senators. The Rangers claimed the 2011 first-round pick the following day.

Video: Puempel on facing his former team

Sunday night marks the first time in his career Puempel will play a game at Madison Square Garden. He said he's looking forward to playing at home for the "passionate" Rangers fans.

"It's the first time for me ever, visiting or home," Puempel said. "I skated there the other day. It was fun being there. Looking forward to that tonight. It's going to be exciting. Great fans here, passionate fans. Another exciting thing this week to happen."

Another player facing his former team tonight is Derick Brassard, who was traded by the Rangers this summer for the injured Mika Zibanejad and a draft choice. 

A fan and team favorite, Brassard's former teammates said they're looking forward to facing him Sunday.

"He spent many years here and lots of guys spent those years with him are still with us," tonight's starter Antti Raanta said. "It's going to be lots of emotions."

One of those players is captain Ryan McDonagh, who praised the four-year Ranger for helping the team reach back-to-back Eastern Conference finals and one Stanley Cup Final appearance. But once the puck drops, it's business as usual.

"He was very well-liked here and played in a lot of big games and helped us have a lot of success here," McDonagh said. "For him, I'm sure he's feeling a lot right now. But as soon as that puck drops, I think he'll want to play his game."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said the decision to move Brassard this summer is just the business side of the sport.

"From management, to teammates to coaches, everybody liked Derick," Vigneault said. "He was a guy who played extremely well for us. He was extremely committed to the group and his teammates, but hockey is a business."

Vigneault said he believes the trade benefits the Rangers in the present as well as in the future.

"By making that move, we were able to sign three players," Vigneault said. "In the cap era, sometimes you're forced to make decisions that are really hard, especially with somebody who is performing and somebody that is well liked. It permitted us to sign three guys, permitted us to get a younger prospect that we felt is on the upswing and a draft pick. It was something for the whole organization was hard to do, but at that time it was something that we had to do.

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