Keith Yandle is a fairly low-key guy, but one would expect his blood to be pumping just a bit more Thursday night. On Thursday Yandle and his Rangers teammates will host the his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, at Madison Square Garden.
Still when he met with reporters following practice at the MSG Training Center on Wednesday, he downplayed the importance of playing against his ex-teammates for the first time since being traded to New York this past March 1.
"When you're traded you're all in with the team you're with," explained Yandle, who spent eight years with the Coyotes. "You try not to dwell in the past, just move forward. For me it's all been about coming to my new team here and helping us win."
The first trade of Yandle's career was not a major surprise. With Arizona struggling in the standings and looking to get younger, planning for the future, Yandle had seemingly been on the block for several years.
That he ended up in New York with a team that made a run to the Eastern Conference Final in the immediate aftermath of the trade, just made things all the better for the 29 year-old Yandle.
"When it did happen, especially with the situation I was put in, with a great team, great organization, it was definitely a good thing," stated Yandle, who added 11 points during the Rangers post-season run in the spring.
A two-time 50+-point performer in Arizona, Yandle surpassed that plateau again last season, totaling 41 points with the Coyotes and another 11 in 21 games with the Rangers following the trade. The deal was made in big part because of the fact that Yandle had established himself as one of the NHL's top offensive defensemen, and the Rangers sought Yandle to fill that role and serve also as quarterback of the power play.
Expectations were, and continue to be, incredibly high for Yandle, and both he and his coach continue to expect more from him. To date Yandle has four points (all assists) in seven games this season after earning an assist in Monday's 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks.
"He has got all the attributes, he just needs to learn to relax and execute a little bit better," explained Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "He's a great person. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for people to get used a new environment, and I'd put him in that category; but I do think he's going to come into his own and will give us the type of hockey we expect from him at both ends of the rink."
Added Yandle, "Every year you put put pressure on yourself to be the best you can be to help out your team. To survive in this league you have to put that pressure on yourself, be one to push yourself as much as possible."
It's that competitive nature which leads one to believe that Yandle will be looking to put his absolute best foot forward against his former team Thursday night at The Garden.