New Ranger Brendan Smith was on the ice with his new teammates Wednesday following a cross-continent flight yesterday from Vancouver to New York.
The defenseman, wearing No. 42, said he was caught off guard but excited when he heard he'd been traded by the Red Wings to the Rangers in exchange for a 2017 third round pick and a 2018 second round selection Tuesday.
"I was a little surprised," Smith told reporters after practice. "I wasn't sure what was entailed, but I knew there were a lot of rumors. I'm excited to be on a good team that's in the playoff hunt. That's really exciting and I love playoff hockey. It's an exciting time to come to a good team like this."
While it's a new city and a new dressing room full of new teammates, Smith has some familiar faces to welcome him to the Big Apple. Smith played three seasons with captain Ryan McDonagh, and two with Derek Stepan at the University of Wisconsin.
Smith said he is also friends with forward Brandon Pirri.
"Having Step and McDonagh and I'm good buddies with Pirri as well, so having these guys to come into a new locker room, they help you out and show you around," Smith said. "They're great guys to do that. It's helped me a lot so far, and I think it'll continue to be a good situation for myself."
McDonagh said he reached out to his old college teammate soon after the trade was official.
"We're thrilled to get him here in New York," McDonagh said. "He had a long flight from Vancouver and it was good to see him get to The Garden right away and meet some of the guys and see the atmosphere there and see the locker room and training room there, so he'll be used to that when we go back for our next game" Saturday against Montreal.
Smith and McDonagh were paired together at times with the Badgers, and that's what coach Alain Vigneualt had in practice. He said he's expecting to start that way Thursday night in Boston, with Smith on McDonagh's right side, something Smith said he's very comfortable with.
"I've played right side a lot on many different teams," Smith said. "I enjoy the right side and I know [McDonagh] likes his dominant left side."
The 28-year-old Smith who has two goals and three assists in 33 games this season with the Red Wings, said he's hoping the move to the high-powered Rangers can spark his offensive game.
"I think I can contribute more offensive," Smith said. "I think I'm due to logging more time and maybe more offensive zone time is a bigger key than anything. I know that the Rangers score a lot more than the Red Wings have this year. That will probably help offensive ability."
With that said, Smith said his main job is defense, and if that goes well, it'll lead to chances 200 feet down the ice.
"If I play good defensively, I think that's going to help my offensive game anyway."
Smith said that while there's pressure to perform on a new team, it's nothing new for him.
"The pressure is any interesting thing. I think I always put pressure on myself to compete at a high level and play good hockey," Smith said. "If I play well, I'm going to help the team. You put those things together and it's a key to success. I think that's what I'm trying to do.
"I'm not trying to pressure myself to do more than I can do," Smith added. "Try to keep it simple and get used to the system and used to the teammates and different guys' skill sets and then build it from there. Hopefully it's quicker a process where I can learn that and move into the playoffs with that."