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Returning Rangers Eager to See Action After World Cup

McDonagh, Stepan and Miller All Join Training Camp on Wednesday

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

If it were up to Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller, there wouldn't be much of a wait before getting back into a game with the Rangers following stints at the World Cup of Hockey.

While there's no date announced yet as to when any of the three returning players - McDonagh and Stepan from Team USA; Miller from Team North America - all three stated they were eager to see preseason action after their first day on the ice with the main groups at camp.

"I can tell you, speaking for me, Mac and J.T.'s standpoint, we were ready to get back at it right away," Stepan told reporters on Wednesday. "We wanted to be back at it on Monday."

The plan now is for all three to undergo fitness testing on Thursday and continue to practice with the team throughout the week. None is expected to play Thursday night when the Rangers host the Devils at Madison Square Garden, but head coach Alain Vigneault said all three will play in at least two of the final four preseason games, with Miller possibly getting an extra game because he played fewer games than Stepan and McDonagh at the World Cup.

Now with that tournament in the rear-view mirror, the focus shifts to the task at hand with the Rangers. Due to the World Cup, none of the three were able to take part in informal skates prior to the start of training camp, thus there's still the getting to know new faces that are now teammates.

"Guys are really putting in their work and it seems like the pace is still really well, even still a week or so into camp," McDonagh said. "Sometimes that can fall off after the first couple of days, but it just seems like a lot of energy, a lot of talk out there. Obviously the new guys who have been here before over the last couple of years have to help these new faces, these new guys get up to speed on what we're trying to do. So far, I think we've been accomplishing that."

Miller, who is coming off his best season in the NHL with 22 goals and 21 assists in 82 games, said he's feeling much more comfortable heading into training camp than in years past.

"I feel really ready to take my game to another level and now I know what it takes away from the puck to be elite," Miller stated. "For a while, I was trying to just prove myself offensively, and when that happens, you kind of get away from the others parts of your game. I'm glad I have a full season under my belt and I'm really looking forward to building off of last year."

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Forward Brandon Pirri will play on Thursday after scoring a goal and adding an assist on Tuesday against the Islanders. The change, though, is that Pirri will play at center Thursday after being a winger last night.

Vigneault said that in his discussions with the 25-year-old, Pirri stated he can play all three forward positions. And while that's always a positive, Vigneault is seeing how he does down the middle in the preseason before the regular season begins.

"As far as in my discussions with him, he can play any position. When I hear that from a player, it's always a great thing. I love hearing that, that versatility, as long as you can play any of those positions well," Vigneault said with a laugh. "That's what we'll find out tomorrow."

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Forward Josh Jooris remains out with a groin injury he suffered in the first period against the Islanders. He remains day-to-day.

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Notable players making their preseason debut Thursday at The Garden are Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Jesper Fast, Kevin Klein and Nick Holden. Pavel Buchnevich, Marek Hrivik, Dylan McIlrath and Nicklas Jensen will appear in their second game.

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