2006-02-24 / Sports

New York Hockey Report: Rangers Go Back To Work

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


Czech Republic and New York Rangers teammates Jaromir Jagr, left, and Martin Straka have a chat during a practice at the 2006 Winter Olympics. They will rejoin the team in time for the March 2 game against the Flyers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Czech Republic and New York Rangers teammates Jaromir Jagr, left, and Martin Straka have a chat during a practice at the 2006 Winter Olympics. They will rejoin the team in time for the March 2 game against the Flyers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) GREENBURGH, NY – The message on the chalkboard was clear.

“24 to go,” Tom Renney wrote to his team, as the members of the New York Rangers, not playing in the Olympics, took to the ice for their first skate in 10 days.

Even though the message was bold, the first practice, which was held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday to allow players time to travel in and get ready, was more relaxed and light hearted than the usual skates.

“It was good; everyone was working hard,” Ryan Hollweg said afterwards. “Nothing too hard, but it was good to be back.”

The session was run by assistant coaches Mike Pelino and Perry Pearn, because Renney was in Bridgeport scouting the Hartford Wolf Pack in their match against the Sound Tigers.

But even though the boss wasn’t there, the players seemed to appreciate getting back into the swing of things.

“We were kind of a half step behind, but fortunately, everyone else is a half step behind too,” Steve Rucchin said. “A couple of days and you are right back, but the first few days are the hardest.”

The Rangers will have plenty of time to get their winning touch back that has them on top of the Atlantic Division with 78 points, but they will need it, since the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Their next game is not until March 2, when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers and play the Devils in Jersey two days later. They don’t play on the Garden ice until March 6, but that game is against the league leading Carolina Hurricanes.

Rucchin hopes the break refreshes his team for the games ahead. “The schedule is just so difficult,” he said. “Hopefully we can all come back energized and here we go.”

Most of the Rangers stayed away from the game over the 10 day sabbatical. They tried to relax and stay in shape and some even watched what was going on in Torino.

“I saw a lot of [the games] on TV,” Hollweg said. “I was pulling for the U.S. but I was pulling for all the guys.”

That included wanting to defend Jaromir Jagr after he was boarded by Jarko Ruutu, causing multiple cuts on the Rangers’ leading scorers forehead.

“It was not good,” Rucchin thought. “My first reaction was it was a brutal hit.”

Hollweg, who loves a good fight, added, “I was sitting there wanting to go out and get Ruutu myself.”

No matter how far away Jagr is, the Rangers have their teammate’s back.

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