Tom Renney was in short sleeves and Aaron Voros was talking up a poker game on the plane. By every measure, the Rangers are ready for their two-game swing through Florida, if only because of how they emerged from their most recent funk last night against Phoenix.
It was a quick, upbeat practice, followed by plenty of banter in the locker room afterward. The plan is to spend tonight and tomorrow night in Tampa, work out there during the day on Thanksgiving, then fly to South Florida where they’ll have a team Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night.
This would have been the plan regardless of whether they won or lost. But the win last night does remove the sense of gloom that had hovered over the team after the previous two games. Or at least that’s how we saw it. Players said the nature of the schedule is you can’t dwell on any game for too long.
With that in mind, I give you that great 21st century philosopher Brandon Dubinsky:
“It’s tough. You don’t want to make excuses, but every team is going to be helter skelter for a few games. They were tough, no doubt about it. But we have a great resolve in here and a group that sticks together in the best way. We were able to put that behind us and move forward. When you’re winning it’s about not getting ahead of ourselves and thinking we’re better than we really are. And when we’re losing it’s about not thinking we’re the worst team in the league.”
At the end of practices recently, Michal Rozsival has put himself through a standard defenseman drill in which he skates forward with the puck, passes it off to a coach, then accepts a pass back and skates with it backward. He does this several times in a row (I am great at that drill provided I can do it at the slowest possible speed. It’s a different story when you pick up the pace).
While Rozsival has yet to use his offseason hip surgery as an excuse for his mediocre play this season, he did acknowledge the need to continue to work on his skating. I believe it’s all connected. Because Rozsival’s mobility was limited to start the season, he has played poorly, which has affected his confidence…leading to more mediocre play.
Fact is, a guy who was a fairly productive NHL defenseman for most of his career doesn’t turn into a liability overnight without a reason.
“I feel I need to get back to work,” Rozsival said. “Even if the hip feels better, it’s still not strong enough. You have to work on it every day on the ice or off. It’s not just my hip. It helps my overall conditioning just to get a better feel for my skating: to get stronger and more comfortable. It helps your confidence to do a little bit more work. I hope it helps with my game.”
He’s not the only one.
At various points in his two seasons as a Ranger, Scott Gomez has made references to his own career as a journalist writing for his high school newspaper, The Rolling Thunder.
The subtext has always been the same — that anyone can do what we do standing around asking sweaty athletes questions (he usually does this while also making fun of someone’s clothes).
Maybe that’s true. But just to be sure, I asked Gomez to produce a copy of one of his articles for the Rolling Thunder. I figured he’s not permitted to make fun of newspaper reporters without at least subjecting his own work to scrutiny.
(In fairness, I should mention my own work writing for my high school newspaper, The Garnet and Black, was hardly Pulitzer material. I once wrote a story about our high school hockey team in which I quoted myself. To this day, my favorite interview).
“You know what, I definitely will,” said Gomez, who added he might bring in his high school yearbook as well since he wrote for that, too.
Don’t let me forget this. It’s important.