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Smith Back in the Fold With the Rangers

Defenseman talks about his role with Blueshirts

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Defenseman Brendan Smith said there were a multitude of reasons he chose to call New York home for the foreseeable future after he and the Rangers agreed to terms on a new contract Thursday.

"I don't know if there was one reason," Smith said in an interview with NYRangers.com on Friday. "There were several reasons. I think I fit in well with the Rangers. I think our D core is good and I think I gelled well with everyone on the backend. I enjoyed the team."

After coming over from Detroit at the trade deadline for a pair of draft picks, Smith said he was able to find his place in the Rangers lineup after an adjustment period, which is not always an easy thing to do on the fly after spending so much time in one organization.

"I think what really helped was how easy it was to gel with the team system and just playing with all these guys. That's a tough thing to do, moving from a different team," Smith said. "I know it took me a couple weeks to get used to it, but once I had it I felt comfortable. The coaches gave me more time [on the ice]. I always find that the more minutes I get, the better game I played. I enjoyed that."

Smith said his relationship with captain Ryan McDonagh, which dates back to their time at the University of Wisconsin, also played a role in his decision to remain a Blueshirt. That friendship, according to Smith, allowed the new comer to feel comfortable to voice his opinion on topics and feel it was appreciated.

"Having one of your best friends as your leader is a cool thing," said Smith. "When I have any input on any situation, it's so much easier to talk to one of your best friends, let alone your captain. I found that very easy. I enjoyed that during the playoff run and at the end of the year that if I had input on anything that it was easily grabbed."

A large portion of that ice time came alongside rookie Brady Skjei. The tandem formed one of the Rangers' better defensive pairs, especially in the team's opening-round series against Montreal. 

Smith said he and Skjei communicated well on the ice, which helped the two build chemistry quickly. 

"I think we gelled because we both can skate and we both talked to each other a lot," Smith said of Skjei, who he said is a defenseman everyone should keep an eye on this season. "We helped each other in different aspects of where we wanted to be. You create that chemistry and that's the biggest thing. I think we did that. We can only get better with the more time we're together."

Video: PHI@NYR: Zuccarello, Smith combine for slick goal

The 28-year-old, who finished the season with three goals and nine points in 51 games, brought a physical element to the Rangers' backend, especially in the playoffs, when he dropped the gloves on multiple occasions and finished with 20 PIMs.

Smith said he plays his best when he's playing with an edge to his game.

"I think it fit for both of us. I like playing that game," Smith said. "I get excited to be more engaged. You need that on every team, and I feel like that's where I can help a lot."

With that said, Smith added there's more to his game than sandpaper, and that he feels there's an offensive game that has room to grow.

The moves the Rangers have already made this season has opened up spots for new voices in the leadership group. Smith said he thinks he's someone who can take that opportunity, even if it does not include wearing a letter on his jersey.

"I find myself kind of a talkative guy to begin with," Smith said. "If I can help some of the younger guys in any sense, shape or form, for sure I'd love to take on a role like that. Even if that doesn't mean wearing a letter. You can always be a leader in different ways. I think I can help in that sense."

Smith quickly became a fan favorite after his February acquisition thanks to his hard-nosed style of play. He said he often feels the fans are so passionate because they want to be right there on the ice with the team.

"I think you get your hardnosed Ranger fans who love that tough stuff," Smith said. "They want you to fight as hard as they do to come and watch the games. I feel like sometimes the Rangers fans just want to be on the ice so bad that they're so loud and exciting. I think maybe they appreciate the game I play." 

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