I'm not going to lie, it was a bit jarring walking into the rink at the MSG Training Center Tuesday morning and the first thing I see is a player skating past wearing an Islanders helmet and blue and orange Islanders pants. I mean, this is not only Rangers Country, this is the Rangers official practice facility!! What's with the Islanders colors?
Then as I quickly assessed the situation I saw the familiar faces of Brad Richards and Brian Boyle and Michael Del Zotto taking their turns shooting on Henrik Lundqvist. But along with those familar Blueshirts, there was a player in Edmonton Oilers gear, another in Tampa Bay Lightning colors, a Devil, a Sabre, another Islander. What the heck?
The answer was simple enough. The Rangers contingent working out on their own two weeks before the start of training camp let the likes of Matt Moulson, Nathan Gerbe, Cam Atkinson, and others seeking ice time join in. It's no different than Ryan McDonagh, for example, working out with fellow Minnesota natives and Wild players back in his home state this summer. And there were some obvious connections, as well. Moulson and Boyle were teammates previously in the Los Angeles Kings organization, as were Boyle and Gerbe at Boston College. Ditto for Chris Kreider and Atkinson at BC.
More importantly a growing group of Rangers continue to prep together for the start of their first camp under Alain Vigneault. Carl Hagelin, for instance, just arrived from Sweden and was flying all over the ice during drills. Though he didn't take part in Tuesday's scrimmage because his surgically-repaired shoulder is not yet ready for contact, it was a comforting sight to see Hagelin whirl around the rink at a warp speed few players in the NHL posess.
Marek Hrivik arrived early from his native Slovakia and is staying at a friend's house on Long Island so that he can work out regularly with the NHL players, hoping to join them this season after a solid, yet somewhat injury-marred first pro season in the AHL a year ago.
Dan Girardi was on hand, testing out his new visor. He was joined Tuesday by fellow defensemen Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, and John Moore. Brad Richards was here continuing his intense off-season commitment to putting 2012-13 in the rearview mirror, heading a group of forwards which included Derick Brassard, as well as Boyle, Hagelin, Kreider, and Hrivik. Richards capped his day by beating Lundqvist one-on-one during the scrimmage, for what it's worth.
More players will arrive in the coming days, especially after the Labor Day Holiday Weekend passes. Right now most are still in their respective hometowns preparing for the 2013-14 campaign, while Rick Nash, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Ryan McDonagh are taking part in Olympic camps for either Canada or the United States.
But in another blink of an eye, training camp will be here, the season will be upon us, and the next time we'll see Moulson or Gerbe or Atkinson it's not going to be at the MSG Training Center, instead it will be for real in a jam-packed arena somewhere. And that's a very cool thought on this warm late summer's day.