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NY Rangers Coach, Players Talk Return to Play and NHL Bubble

After four-plus months of waiting, 24 National Hockey League (NHL) teams will finally return to some hockey action. These 24 teams made the round-robin qualifiers for the playoffs which begin on Saturday, August 1.

One team in particular, the New York Rangers were playing very well during the second half of the season before the season was postponed. The Boys on Broadway were riding the momentum that rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin and Artemi Panarin provided them. Panarin was a major free agency acquisition for the Rangers and he was recently named a finalist for the Hart trophy.

Now, along with 11 other Eastern Conference teams, the Rangers have landed in their NHL bubble, hub city, Toronto, Ontario. There, the team will stay on their own floor in a hotel. Rangers’ bench-boss, David Quinn told NHL.com that there is a “golf simulator” in the lounge area where the Blueshirts can have some fun inside the hotel.

The Blueshirts’ Playoff Quest Begins

The Rangers will play the Islanders, Wednesday at 8:00 PM. The game will air live on NBC Sports.

On Monday, the Rangers entered the “bubble” in Toronto, one of two hub cities designated to host the playoffs. For days, reporters have asked the Rangers’ head coach David Quinn which goaltender he plans to start in game one against the Hurricanes this Saturday. Quinn has refused to give an answer.

The only thing said was “We’ve been told we can dress one extra goalie and two extra skaters.”

It is almost a foregone conclusion that Alexandar Georgiev will not be dressed, while Henrik Lundqvist will back-up Shesterkin for Game One of the play-in round series.

 

The Rangers bench-boss discusses what he hopes his team will take away from this tune-up game.

“I think the exhibition game will give us a barometer of where we’re at [with regards] to special teams, offense,” Quinn said, “It’s very difficult, it’s difficult to try to emulate real game situations in our practices and scrimmages. There’s nothing like lining up against someone who’s not on your team.”

First Taste of Playoff Hockey in an NHL Bubble

Rangers defenseman, Adam Fox has had a great rookie season in New York, so for him, this opportunity means a lot.

“This is obviously a great opportunity and a great experience. It’s obviously unique in the setting, but it is playoff hockey, and I think we’re going to play with [a higher level of] intensity,” Fox said.

Although Fox won’t be able to have a full playoff experience in the NHL bubble due to an empty arena, it still serves as an advantage. There will be a significantly less raucous atmosphere, and for a rookie, Fox says it’s helpful.

“You can’t really [prepare] for the unique circumstances we’re in,” Fox said. “It’s not going to be [about] building momentum off the crowd, it’s a little bit of building your own energy. That makes it a little easier for someone like me who’s playing their first time in playoff hockey, but still got a good group of guys who have experience and understand how it works.”

The Rangers have a good mix of young and old players on their team. The cliche in sports is that experience is valuable in the toughest of games. While the veterans may be able to advise the young players on how to play, it’s the younger players who often have the best mental and physical abilities that will be very heavily relied upon during the competitive games that lie ahead.

Mika Zibanejad Talks “Hartemi”

On Fox 5’s Sports Extra, host Tina Cervasio, asked the Rangers’ leading goal-scorer, Mika Zibanejad how he has been transitioning back to playing competitive ice hockey and entering the NHL bubble. For him and the rest of the team, it’s been a situation no one has experienced previously. The key will be to accept the situation and have fun.

Zibanejad also revealed what he appreciates most about his teammate, Artemi Panarin.

“He’s been competitive in practice, competitive at the ping-pong table, no matter what it is,” Zibanejad described. “I think he really pushes guys to be better and to get better and I think he makes everyone around him better.”

Ryan Strome Adds Perspective

The Rangers have a chance of making the playoffs to compete for a Stanley Cup. Ryan Strome described how privileged he feels to have this chance:

“At the end of the day, our careers are so short and…this is something I’ve told the younger players, these opportunities don’t come around too often. No matter how unique the circumstances, its important to embrace the experience. It’s a privilege to play in the playoffs in this league and you never want to let an opportunity pass you by. With the type of team we have, anything can happen.”

 

The Double G Sports staff was polled on who they think will advance in the play-in round. Check out the results here.

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