Kevin Shattenkirk has dreamt about being a Ranger since he was a young boy growing up in New Rochelle. And on Thursday night, that dream become a reality.
"I'm glad it's finally here. I feel like this training camp has taken a long time just because I've anticipated tomorrow night coming for so long," Shattenkirk told reporters on Wednesday, a day before he makes his debut as a Blueshirt. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know these guys. We had a great trip in Lake Placid and I think we all felt like after that we could have played tonight because we're ready to go."
It'll have to wait just 24 hours longer. With decades of anticipation to what Thursday has in store, what picture has Shattenkirk draw for himself and his team for the first night he's a Ranger at Madison Square Garden?
"I think in my mind I'm imagining it'll be the best game I ever play and we'll win 10-0," he said with a laugh. "You hope for the best possible result. I think I'm really just trying to figure out how nervous I'll be and how much excitement there will be for my family and friends. I don't think there's any real way to quantify that until you actually do it."
The 28-year-old will have about 120 friends and family in attendance on the Chase Bridge for Thursday's opener against Colorado, with many more scattered throughout the arena. The support has always been there whenever Shattenkirk came through the Metropolitan area during his first eight seasons in the NHL, but Thursday will certainly have a different feel.
"Now if I played for the Blues or the Capitals and we didn't win they were still happy because the Rangers won," he said with a smile. "Now if I go out there and we lose they're going to be upset with me. I think that's the biggest difference."
The emotions will be running high at the start, but Shattenkirk said he's expecting the nerves to settle down after the first few shifts. Then, it becomes hockey again.
"The first couple shifts will be tough emotionally," he said. "I think after that, as a player, you start to really settle in and you realize that you're playing a hockey game and things are going super-fast. You start to - not almost black out - it starts to become, especially for a guy who has played a while, it becomes another game. You start to find your focus that way."
Forward Mats Zuccarello was named an alternate captain for the 2017-18 season by head coach Alain Vigneault, with input from captain Ryan McDonagh.
"[I] expect him to continue to influence and lead," Vigneault said. "He's developing and growing since I've been here. His first year, he was trying to establish himself as an NHL player. He's definitely done that. I think he's earned the respect of everyone in the NHL by not just how he plays, but he came back from a real serious injury. In our dressing room, he's a very popular figure. He always comes to play and is always there for his teammates. I expect him to continue to do that and help our whole group and Ryan McDonagh and down in the best way he can."
Forward Jesper Fast skated with the team in a full contact jersey for the second straight practice on Wednesday as he continues to rehab from offseason hip surgery.
The expectation is for Fast to join the lineup at the end of October, and right now he said that's the plan he's going to stick to.
"Keep working hard now and get the conditioning going and just be around the guys," he said. "Practicing, passing some pucks and shooting. The timing has to get better, but I'll just take it step by step."