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Training Camp Day 1 Notebook

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NewYorkRangers.com

Last season is behind them, but there's still some frustration to how the 2015-16 season ended for the Rangers, with many stating the campaign ended prematurely.

Stalwarts for the Rangers over the last several years, both on offense and defense, said they feel they have something to prove in training camp after last season.

"I think so, yeah," said defenseman Marc Staal when asked if there was a chip. "I think we're a group that me and a lot of other guys have a feeling like we almost have to prove ourselves over again. With the expectations of our group over the last few years, you have that feeling that you're supposed to be there at a high level and we weren't last year. I think everyone is excited to come into camp and have that chip where we know the way we can play and it's about performing and doing it on the ice more consistently this year. We're looking forward to it."

Video: Staal on how he's feeling physically

Forward Rick Nash, who has led the Rangers in goals in three of his four seasons with New York, said he felt his spot in the lineup was not guaranteed and that he'd have to earn his ice time with a strong showing in training camp.

"I know for me, as I get to the tail end of my career and you see these young guys come in with high expectations, you just know you have to prove yourself," Nash said. "Especially after the year I had last year, I'm here at camp to show that I belong on this team."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said he was happy to hear Nash and others feel that way, and that it's crucial for Nash to return to the player he was in 2014-15, when he finished third in the NHL with 42 goals. 

"It's the right attitude to have," Vigneault said of Nash and others feeling pressure in camp. "A player should want to come here and earn the ice time. In Rick's case, we talked about it [Thursday]. [He is a] solid two-way player but there's no going away from the fact that we need his offense. We need him to be on the scoresheet. We need him to be a force offensively.

"That offense that he brings," Vigneault later added, "he's one of the elite offensive players in the game and we need that from him."

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Dylan McIlrath is one of the players battling for a roster spot on the blueline, and he'll have a familiar face in new Assistant Coach Jeff Beukeboom there to learn from.

McIlrath spent three seasons playing for Beukeboom in Connecticut/Hartford of the American Hockey League, where Beukeboom ran the defense. McIlrath said he's looking forward to working with the former Ranger again in New York.

"That was great," McIlrath said. "When I found out the news that [Ulf Samuelsson] was leaving, I was super pumped to hear that Jeff was getting the position just because it's another familiar face. We worked together for three years. He helped mold me into the defenseman and person I am today. We have a very good relationship. He's a guy I can just step into his office and have a conversation and it's like talking to a peer or a friend. I'm very excited to work with him and I think he'll do great here."

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Vigneault said he expects Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller to be in camp on Monday, but not hit the ice until possibly Tuesday or Wednesday, though he said all three said they "don't want to take a lot of time off. They want to get back at it as quick as they can.

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