How the Rangers are making up for lost time on team bonding
BOSTON — Following a season in which NHL players were encouraged to stay at home as much as they could, the Rangers are looking to make up for lost time on team bonding.
The Blueshirts were scheduled to remain in the New England area for a series of activities coming off of Saturday’s morale-boosting 4-3 preseason win over the Bruins at TD Garden.
“We’re going to go golfing, we’re going to do some things with the guys, like archery and stuff like that, skeet shooting,” Ryan Strome said Saturday’s win, which brought the Rangers’ preseason record to 2-2. “I think it’s more just in New York, we have guys who live in the city, some guys live in White Plains, some guys live in Connecticut and this is a great way to have everyone together without the distractions of your families and stuff.
“Just to get together with the guys and learn about each other and come together a little bit. The last year has been pretty challenging, we’ve been able to do that on the road without being able to go to dinner and go out and stuff like that.
“I think this is just a chance to get accustomed to our teammates, learn some of the new guys and try to come together as a team a little bit as much as we can before the thing starts.”
The Rangers have brought in plenty of new faces over the last two years.
But there was little opportunity for last year’s rookies, including Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, Morgan Barron, Vitali Kravtsov and Zac Jones, to get acclimated to the team due to strict protocols aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Then came this past offseason, in which new general manager Chris Drury brought in a new coaching staff and several new players – including Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais and Patrik Nemeth.
Additionally, rookie defenseman Nils Lundkvist was brought over from Sweden.
So the Rangers coordinated this team-bonding trip, which includes two practices in Rhode Island, to further integrate new faces into the organization.
“It’s huge, especially for the coaching staff,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “We’re all new coaches and you get to meet a lot of the players and you’re starting to get to know them pretty good now. So that’s really big.
“Also, there’s quite a few new players here in our group, so I think it’s great that they get together. They’ll go golf and do things together, so I think it goes a long way.”
The Rangers will likely trim the roster down from 33 to around 25 players for the final two preseason games. Until then, the team will get ample time to mesh off the ice.
“I think it’s good, especially with some new guys as well to kind of get the group together,” Mika Zibanejad said. “We didn’t obviously have a chance to do that during last season with the restrictions and everything. So I think it will be a good thing to get together, just gel as a group and get to know each other even better.”