First Roman Hamrlik's 20th NHL season was delayed four months by the league's work stoppage. Then after playing only four games under his new coach Adam Oates in Washington he was relegated to the press box before finally being placed on waivers and subsequently being claimed by the Rangers this past Wednesday.
It's no wonder after appearing in his first game in exactly one month Hamrlik said last night, "I just want to have some fun."
But make no bones about it, by having fun, Hamrlik means contributing to a winning team. And he believes that is exactly the situation he now finds himself in with the Blueshirts.
"I feel like I can bring some things to a winning team like the Rangers," Hamrlik said after making his Blueshirts debut in Thursday's 2-1 overtime win over the Islanders. "I have been playing a long time, but I still have the passion and I still love this game, and I think I can still play."
Hamrlik was certainly thrown right into the fire last night by head coach John Tortorella. Paired with Steve Eminger at even strength, and even given a small look on the second power play unit, Hamrlik played 15 minutes 48 seconds, was credited with one shot on goal and one hit, and generally handled himself well considering how much time had elapsed since his last game action with the Capitals on February 7th.
"He's not in shape, but a guy who has played that long knows how to get things done," Tortorella said of Hamrlik. "I thought he and Eminger played really well, especially in the first period."
The 38 year-old Hamrlik did not disagree with his new coach's assessment of his game shape, nor the fact that his experience can not be discounted.
"I have to get back into better shape because obviously it's not easy when you are 38 years old and you haven't played in one month," Hamrlik said with a smile, while standing next to a stationary bike he had been riding postagme outside the Rangers dressing room. "I've played so many games, so I can fit into any system and handle myself out there, but I need to get in better shape, and that will take a couple more games."
Inside the locker room following the win over the Islanders, the veteran defenseman drew rave reviews from his new teammates.
"Hamrlik comes in and plays really well," noted goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. "It felt very comfortable to have him out there. You could see he's a really smart guy, and he made really good decisions with the puck and he calms things down. It was great to see."
Added Ryan McDonagh, "I had a great first game with him on the bench, just seeing him composed. He was talking and chatting like he's been apart of this team for a while. You could see his veteran presence out there. He's a great addition for our backend."
Now the trick for Hamrlik will be to turn it around 24 hours later when the Rangers host the Senators at The Garden tonight. And then there will facing his former club, the Capitals, Sunday afternoon in Washington. below.
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