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Stepan, Former Teammates on His First Game Back at MSG

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Derek Stepan spent seven seasons as a Ranger after being drafted by the organization in the second-round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. On Thursday he'll return to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a visitor following an offseason trade that sent him and goaltender Antti Raanta to Arizona in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft (Lias Andersson) and defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

Stepan shared his thoughts on facing his former team for the first time, while his ex-teammates spoke about what he meant to the organization and their emotions before Thursday's game.

Stepan on his emotions before tonight's game

"I'm an emotional guy. I played seven years here. It's going to be a rough day, I think. I'm hoping once the puck drops - players always talk about once the puck drops you kind of get in the game. I'm hoping that happens. It's going to be an interesting day for me. In my head I've got a plan, but we'll see if I can stick to it."

Stepan on his favorite moments as a Ranger

"The Game 7 one against Washington is a big one. It's actually in the MSG [366] thing. That's something that will never leave my memory. It's something that's a big part of my life. The Stanley Cup run was I think the most fun I've ever had playing hockey, even though we don't come out raising the trophy. That run, it's hard to explain. It's something that when you play in the playoffs and you can make a run like that, and coming back from 3-1 against Pittsburgh. It was a blast. There' s a lot of little things like that. Playing at old MSG. Not many guys can say they played at the old Garden. I was fortunate enough to do it."

Alain Vigneault on coaching Stepan for four seasons

"Seven years in Vancouver and five years here, he's been one of my favorite players to coach. Talk about Rick Nash being low maintenance, Derek Stepan was low maintenance. He understood the game. In our dressing room, he was a real solid figure as far as understanding where we needed to continue to push, where we need to make adjustments."

Ryan McDonagh on facing his friend

"Got a little taste of it in the summer when his Coyotes gear showed up. That was a little bit of a shock to see him in that. I've been following him along here and talking to him along the way. It's certainly a different situation for him being on a different team. Different here a little bit for us too without him being in our group. At the end of the day, he's a competitor, we're competitors. We're going to work hard against each other on the ice."

Rick Nash on what Stepan meant to the organization

"It's going to be weird. I'm sure a lot more weird for him. I've been in his shoes before. It's a strange feeling. I think we've got to respect and recognize what he's done with this organization. The blood and sweat he's put in, in the regular season and playoffs, he's a pretty special player. He was a tremendous Ranger."

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