Though it shouldn't come as a major surprise, what with his arrival from Europe and the fact that he has not practiced with the team yet, but Mats Zuccarello will not play this evening when the Rangers skate against the Ottawa Senators at ScotiaBank Place. Zuccarello inked a free agent contract with the Rangers Thursday morning and took part in the morning skate, but head coach John Tortorella confirmed that the popular forward will not play and, in fact, there will be no lineup changes from Tuesday night's 5-2 victory in Philadelphia.
That news still couldn't dampen the enthusiasm Zuccarello has about returning to the organization he played for the past two seasons.
"This is where I want to be," Zuccarello told reporters in the visitors locker room at ScotiaBank Place Thursday morning. "This is the team I wanted to come back to. I love the guys and everybody around the team, and the fans. When I heard there was interest (from the Rangers in bringing him back) I was happy about that. It was a quick and easy choice for me."
Many of his teammates were equally as happy to see Zuccarello rejoin the Rangers.
"He has a great attitude and is a great guy to be around," Brian Boyle said of Zuccarello, who had eight goals and 26 points in 52 games with the Rangers over the previous two season. "He wants to play here, he really does, because he came back and got out of a pretty good (KHL) contract. He's got a ton of offensive ability and I'm sure he's coming back trying to prove something, for sure."
Zuccarello was 11-17-28 in 44 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL this season. He had another year remaining on his contract, but had it terminated in order to return to the Rangers, who owned his NHL rights as a restricted free agent.
"It was good hockey and a good league, so I think it was good for me to go there," Zuccarello said of his stint in Russia. "It's a little bit different game there, but it's a great league with a lot of skilled players, and more physical than I thought it would be, too. I played the same way over there like I did here."
Tortorella would not speculate as to when Zuccarello might play in a game. Tonight he will watch the Rangers try to make it two in a row on this road trip, as Zuccarello's good buddy Henrik Lundqvist makes his ninth consecutive start in goal.
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