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Zuccarello getting first shot at NHL

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Official News: Zuccarello Called Up

Zuccarello Profile
Connecticut Whale Watch

By Jim Cerny,

Mats Zuccarello received quite the early Christmas present on Wednesday morning. Currently playing his best hockey of the season, Zuccarello was recalled by the Rangers from the Connecticut Whale and will make his NHL debut Thursday at Madison Square Garden when the Blueshirts host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I want to get him in some offensive situations,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of the skilled Norwegian winger. “I have to figure out some lines and where to put him, so as the game goes on we’ll see how it all works out.”

Mats Zuccarello, the MVP of last season's Swedish Elite League and a 2010 Olympic sensation, will make his NHL debut on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Zuccarello, who has recorded eight points in his previous six games with the Whale, and 22 in his last 20, will take Marian Gaborik’s spot in the lineup on Thursday. Gaborik was unable to practice on Wednesday due to a sore groin and Tortorella ruled him out of Thursday’s contest with the Lightning.

“I don’t think it’s anything real serious,” Tortorella said of Gaborik’s injury. “He said it was sore after practice the other day and it was sore today, so I think the next few days should help him, with just missing the one game and then we don’t play again until the 27th.”

After a bit of an adjustment period to get used to the North American game, Zuccarello has emerged as one of the AHL’s top rookie performers. The 23-year-old is second among AHL rookies with 13 goals and is third with 24 points.

Last year Zuccarello led the Swedish Elite League in scoring with 64 points, capturing league MVP honors along the way. He also represented Norway in the 2010 Winter Olympics, picking up three points in four games.

Zuccarello did not arrive from Connecticut in time to practice with the Rangers on Wednesday, so Vinny Prospal stepped in and skated on a regular shift alongside Erik Christensen and Todd White. Prospal, who is recovering from knee surgery, is still several weeks away from returning to the lineup, though seeing him take a regular turn during practice was a boost to his teammates.

“I can’t even catch my breath right now,” Prospal said after practice. “I am nowhere near where I need to be yet.”

Gaborik’s absence was mirrored by that of defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was home with a stomach virus on Wednesday. Tortorella said that Del Zotto would also be scratched for Thursday’s game and be replaced in the lineup by Matt Gilroy.

“We’ll just go play,” said Tortorella. “We’ve had injuries all year long and we’ve just gone about our business, and that’s what we’ll do tomorrow. We have a chance to look at (Zuccarello) who’s doing pretty well down in Connecticut and he’ll get his opportunity.”
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