On the post-practice event in which members of the FDNY and NYPD hockey teams were interspersed with Rangers players for a scrimmage game and a shootout. Tortorella, by the way, was the happiest guy on the ice when some of the firemen and cops scored on Henrik Lundqvist.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better, except for freakin’ Hank trying to stone every one of them. Oh, God dammit, you could see it right from the get-go. I said, ‘Give ‘em a sniff, would ya?’ He just kind of looked at me. It’s the hardest I’ve seen him compete since I’ve been here.”
“I’m glad they did (eventually get a couple of goals). I wanted someone to go home with a goal against him. I’m just so happy the way it worked out.”
On the one fireman who hit the crossbar on his shootout shot:
“He told me he wanted the puck anyway.”
“We went out, the team, went out touring to some of the fire stations and, you know, we just figured … I just wanted them to practice with us … We picked a day, J.R. (John Rosasco, the V.P. of public relations and player recruitment) and I, and Kerryann (Tomlinson, the V.P. of community relations), and she is just tremendous. She’s the one who organized everything. We just thought it was good timing, for where we are with the anniversary of it and all the stuff that went on a couple of weeks ago, and I just think it’s a way of us showing respect to them. I thought it was a great opportunity to show respect for them and what they do for us.
“The game itself was great, but just to watch them with the players after, just milling around and taking pictures and Pruster showing them how to fight, and this and that, I’m so happy it worked out that way because they deserve that type of respect for what they do for us.”
“You look at our guys, look at how much fun they had doing it. I’m not sure who had more fun, the policemen or the firemen or our players. It was a good time for it. … We toned it down a little bit (in practice) and did some teaching, so it was a good day. You guys have talked to me about the monotonous of training camp. I think it’s important to have monotonous, but there’s certain times you need to get away from it. So they did their work for 50 minutes prior, and then they had some fun with these guys.”
On Brad Richards’ groin: “Brad’s good. Just talked to him. He’s fine. He’ll play tomorrow.”
On Marc Staal leaving the ice early: “Had an appointment with a specialist (in NYC) and we wanted him to make that appointment. Right now we feel it’s more important for him to stay with that than 50 minutes of ice time.”
Said he won’t give daily updates on Staal if he’s on the ice and practicing, but will if he’s missing or if there is news regarding his condition.
“There will be a couple (of young guys who played in Albany who will play in Newark). We made some decisions today to narrow that list down. I’m not saying it’s fair sometimes, where you just don’t get much game time, but we have to make decisions quickly here. But there will be a couple of guys in the lineup that we want to continue to look at and by Saturday is when we’re going to … there’ll be a number of people out of here and we’ll have a pretty good idea of what that number is. It may be 32 going to Europe. We’ll have that (number) Saturday.
Can much be read into the three groups on the ice today?
“Sure. Yeah. Now, it doesn’t mean someone from the second group isn’t going to bump up to the first group. But, yeah, you can read into it.
“Most of the guys (in the first group), those are really young kids. I don’t think it’s going to really have a lot of impact on us right now with the big club. But again, you can read into it a little bit, but certainly there’s some players who practiced in different groups because that’s just where it fell in numbers, too. So don’t read too much into it, I guess is what I’m saying.”
On Zuccarello having to play himself onto the roster or off of it?
“He is in competition like a number of other guys. He has played very well in this camp. He has made a number of plays, play that people don’t see, just small plays in small areas, but he is still in competition trying to make this hockey club. Which goes back to that other question. He’s there now. That could change. There’s some interchangeable parts there. But Zucc has played well.
Is it more important for him to improve on what he does best, or to pick up on other areas of his game?
“Both. We want more improvement at hsi strengths and we want to continue working with him on the defensive part of it, understanding the smaller rink, understanding our scheme. He still doesn’t totally understand away from the puck. We continue to work with him. So I would say both.”
On Del Zotto in Albany:
“Ah, again, he wasn’t bad, wasn’t great. I don’t think anybody was great or anybody was real bad. It was a really tough game to evaluate because I thought it was just a sloppy game. I’m not going to put too much stock into anything good or bad in that game. But Michael continues, just like Zucc, to battle for a spot.”
Going to watch from upstairs in Newark, then go back behind the bench for the preseason
On the vantage point from above:
“It really helped me, because you look at little things. I take in the intangibles, how people react in scrums, how people react in situations, that you just don’t see it from ice level. So I’m going to do one more game.
“It’s a lot easier (to see what’s going on away from the puck).
Said there’s competition for the third goalie, but the guy who goes to backup the two regulars in Europe will not necessarily be the “third” goalie in the organization. In other words, the team might want the true third goalie to be with the Whale and playing games.
On whether expectations are, or should be, higher this year (I had to ask him this question for my season preview, since I probably won’t see him again until the team gets back from Europe).
“That’s up to you guys. You guys are the ones who plant the expectations. I’m not a forecaster. I’m not a big guy to talk about expectations.
“I just want us to grow in all areas. I think we’re in a different level of the process. We’ve kept our kids. Glen has done a great job keeping our nucleus and our core. I think they’ve grown. I think they need to continue to grow. We’ve added Rupp, we’ve added Richards, veteran guys, so that puts in the process of trying to be a better team. I think we’ve upped our talent level with Richie and helps us in a lot of areas with out club. Rupp’s going to help us in a lot of areas with our lines. So I’ll put it that way. I think we’re in the next step of the process of being the best we can be.”
(As a follow-up, I asked if this year is different than, say, two years ago when he openly said he’d live with the hiccups as he brought along a lot of young players):
“When you’re grooming a team and building a team you’re looking to chip out some of those hiccups, as this might be the third year for some of those guys. Certainly we want to kick out some of those hiccups and be a better team. I thought we were a pretty good team last year. I thought we did a really good job of identifying who we wan to be, who we are, and playing to it. We’re going to have to be better in all areas if we want to get out of that seventh, eighth, ninth fight that we’re in every year. Whether that’s expectations, I’m just being honest. That’s where we are in our process of trying to get there, into another spot.”
On when the team identified Rupp as a coveted free agent, and why:
“Early. He scored so many freakin’ goals agianst us we wanted to get him. We focused on him because we wanted to get people to help Prust with the bigger guys if it comes to that. And we just felt he was a pretty good player who adds size and a little bit of veteran mentoring. We heard he was a really good man, a good teammate, and you can move him. I don’t think he’s just a fourth-line guy. I think you can move him in a lot of different positions. … We just felt he was a good fit for us where we are as a hockey team right now, with the youth that we have. Really, back at LaQuinta (at organizational meetings) we were talking about Rupp and Richie and I think it’s going to help our hockey club.”
On Stepan being on the team or having to earn a spot:
“Derek Stepan continues to battle for where he fits on the hockey club … positionally. I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do. We’ll have six lines plus one, probably 19 forwards, going into Europe. … I’ve got to figure out the lines. You know, you add Brad Richards and as much as we’ve talked about center-ice position, you put Richie in there and now there’s a glut there, and what do you do? And who’s going to play left wing with Richie and Gabby? Can Brian Boyle play left wing? Can Dubi play left wing there? There’s a number of different options that we have to work through, and we have certainly not figured that out yet.”
Said he switched from the planned 18 forwards to 19 making the trip was “because someone earned their way onto it. And we may go to 11 D — I was going to go with 10 D — because of Marc.”
On having seen Boyle at left wing?:
“No, but we will. We’re going to take a look at that because, I’ve got to think about balancing a lineup too. I look at Anisimov, Dubinsky and Callahan and that line just has chemistry. We put them together in one scrimmage and you could just see that they know where one another is. And balancing a lineup has to come into play as we try and figure out what we’re going to do here.
He agreed that Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust also has chemistry:
“Yeah, and that’s what you’ve got to weigh. It may hurt … and I’m not sure if it’s going to work out this way; it’s just a thought process you go through as a coach. You look at all these combinations. Which is better? What if we get a good left winger that plays with Richie and Gabby that isn’t Dubi and you have two lines? Which line to (opponents) check? If that line plays the way we feel it can — Anisimov, Dubinsky and Callahan? I’m not sure it all works out that way. They may end up stinking the joint out and it just doesn’t work. But this is the process that I have to go through in the next couple of weeks, trying to figure all this out.”