Though he wasn't ready to announce his lineup for Saturday's game against the Canadiens just yet following practice on Friday, Rangers head coach John Tortorella did say definitively that freshly-signed forward Mats Zuccarello will be among the 20 players dressing for the game.
Zuccarello, who officially signed a free agent contract Thursday and then took part in the team's morning skate in Ottawa, skated on a line with Brad Richards and Chris Kreider at practice Friday at Carlton University in Ottawa. Though Tortorella said he was unsure of how the line combinations would play out, Zuccarello was excited at the prospects of getting into game action, and quite possibly playing alongside Richards and Kreider on what could be an intriguing offensive line.
"Richie is really smart, and Kreids has a great shot, so I just have to kind of work hard and get them the puck," explained Zuccarello after practice. "It's all about hard work. I just have a good feeling coming in here, and now when I get a chance to play in a game I just do my best and try and be ready."
Tortorella praised Zuccarello's offensive skill and mentioned that the 25 year-old Norwegian proved to him late last season that he had grasped the defensive part of playing forward in the NHL, as well. Unfortunately right at that time, in late March, Zuccarello suffered a broken wrist which sidelined hime the rest of the year. That was followed by his exit to Russia, a season playing in the KHL, and now his return to the Blueshirts.
"The reason why we are interested in Zucc is that we feel he can make plays, certainly can help us in the shootout if it comes to that, and I think he may help us on the power play," stated the Rangers head coach. "He has good offensive instincts. We can't expect him to come in and change everything for us offensively, but we think he can help us offensively, and that's why he is here."
Both coach and player agree that Zuccarello's familiarity with the Rangers---having been in the organization the past two years---is a major plus in his ability to help the team sooner rather than later this time around.
"It's a lot easier bringing in a player like him because he knows us, knows the coaching staff, knows how we play," explained Tortorella. "I think he understands how you have to play here versus overseas."
Added Zuccarello, "I know almost everybody here, and I have a great relationship with most of the guys and the people around. I just have a good feeling coming in here."
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