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Road trip a homecoming for two Rangers

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com


Rangers forward Olli Jokinen has a year-round home in Florida and has played hundreds of games in the Sunshine State during a long stint with one of the teams the Blueshirts will face this weekend.
After a day off in Tampa, the Rangers were back practicing at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday morning. There were a few sunburns to be seen among the players, who counted golf, boating, swimming, and just plain relaxing as off-day highlights from Wednesday.

For two veteran players, coming to Florida meant quality time with the family. Vinny Prospal, a former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, still owns a home in the Tampa area and, as such, spent Wednesday there with his family, who were able to fly down from New York during Spring Break. Prospal’s son, dubbed “Mini Vinny” by Aaron Voros, went to practice with his father on Thursday morning and was put to work by the team’s equipment managers, helping clean up the locker room after the players had finished using it.

After arriving in Tampa with the team early Wednesday morning, Olli Jokinen then headed to southern Florida to spend time with his wife and two daughters, jetting back on Thursday morning in time for practice. Jokinen’s family relocated from Calgary back to their permanent home in Florida after he was traded by the Flames to the Rangers two months ago and, as a result, Jokinen had not seen much of his family while playing for the Blueshirts.

“It’s really tough to be away from the family for such a long period of time,” said Jokinen. “So it was really nice to be with them yesterday and then see them again this weekend (when the Rangers head south to face the Panthers). My daughters were really excited.”

Rozsival draws kudos from head coach

Rangers head coach John Tortorella had high praise for veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival after Thursday’s practice. Pointing out that Rozsival’s focus and on-ice play had improved tremendously since he took over as head coach in February of 2009, Tortorella said that Rozsival had earned the extra load of ice time he has been receiving recently.

Michal Rozsival
“He has certainly brought his consistency to a different level, as far as smart plays with the puck, and especially with his intensity and competitiveness,” Tortorella said of Rozsival. “I think he has really worked on that part of the game. We have him in all situations now, and he really has been a pretty steady player for us this season.”

Rozsival has played in all 76 games so far this season, recording three goals, 18 assists, and 21 points to go along with an even plus/minus rating. In the last eight games he has logged a minimum of 23 minutes per contest, including at least 24 minutes in seven of eight. Rozsival led the Rangers with 27:51 worth of ice-time on Tuesday against the Islanders, and he surpassed 30 minutes in last week’s overtime win over the Devils.

“He’s had some ups and downs (in New York) and has taken some hits for it, but as a pro athlete you have to grind through that, and I think he has done a pretty good job of that,” said Tortorella. “He hasn’t let it bug him, and it’s tough thing to do sometimes when people are down on you. But he has fought through that and has really been a steady guy for us.”
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