Prior to the Rangers optional morning skate Friday at the CONSOL Energy Center Rangers forward Mike Rupp greeted one member after another from the Pittsburgh Penguins team, and staff. For Rupp, it was a homecoming of sorts. His first visit back to Pittsburgh since leaving the Penguins as a free agent this past summer to sign with the Rangers.
"Sure it will be different tonight," Rupp said following the morning skate. "I went out, took a peak at their skate, saw the guys, and they were doing the drill we always did at gameday skates at the end of practice. But I saw the guys when they were in New York, so those feelings have been settled with. I don't need to shake all their hands tonight. There's a big hockey game to win tonight, so that's my main objective."
A Devil, a Coyote, a Blue Jacket, and a Devil again before joining the Penguins for the 2009-10 season, Rupp quickly built strong ties to the city of Piitsburgh and the fans that reside there. He had his two best seasons statistically with the Penguins, notching 19 points in his first season in Pittsburgh and 17 a year ago, while racking up 244 penalty minutes in 162 games as a Penguin.
"I've had my two best years of my career here, and I think that goes with overall being happy in a hockey environment. There was a great group of guys, the coaches were great to me, the fans were fantastic. It's a place that was really welcoming to me and my family, and we've kind of lived in this area for a while and plan to continue to do that. So it's home for us, and it's a special place for us, for sure."-Mike Rupp
Rupp has appeared in 16 games as a Ranger, missing 22 games because of knee surgery earlier this season. He has three goals, including a pair in Monday's Winter Classic, though his coaches and teammates say that his impact is just as great off the ice as it is on the ice.
That is not a surprise to Rupp's former Penguin teammate Jordan Staal.
"He's an awesome guy," Staal said of Rupp. "We lost a good man."
"I am just excited to come back and see everyone," explained Rupp. "It'll be a good night, but a tough night, too. I loved my time here and consider this place home, so it's good to be back."
Share your thoughts below on Rupp's addition to the Rangers and his return to Pittsburgh tonight.