Callahan's shoulder improves; Girardi eyes pitch, outdoor games

Rangers players Ryan Callahan, left, and Dan Girardi

Rangers players Ryan Callahan, left, and Dan Girardi pose for a photo during the 2014 NHL Stadium Series media availability at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 8, 2013) (Credit: Getty)

Dan Girardi (along with the Isles’ John Tavares and the Devils’ Andy Greene) are throwing out the first pitches before Friday’s Yanks-Tigers series opener, and the defenseman, who played first base growing up and sometimes brought his glove to the Rangers practice complex to catch with Chris Drury in the parking lot, loosened up his arm last week with one of the equipment staffers.

The bet here is that No. 5, who along with Ryan Callahan and assistant GM Jeff Gorton repped the Blueshirts Thursday at the NHL’s formal announcement of the two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium during Super Bowl week, won’t embarrass himself on the bump.

Callahan, the Rangers captain, won’t be tossing anything while he rehabs from shoulder surgery, but said he began skating a week ago and expects to be shooting pretty soon. “Come training camp I can be shooting and skating. The big thing with the shoulder is contact,” so he can’t set a timetable for his return just yet. “You have to see how it progresses as you get stronger.”

Callahan played soccer, not baseball. But he attended Triple-A Rochester Red Wings games as a youngster “quite a bit…I enjoyed the hot dogs and the warm weather,” he said.

But both were pumped about the chance to play more NHL games outdoors, especially against local rivals at Yankee Stadium, having beaten the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in the 2012 Winter Classic.

“It’s going to be quite an atmosphere,” said Girardi, who suggested that playing a day game Jan. 26 against New Jersey in the ballpark rink “might help a little bit” before a night game against the Islanders on Jan. 30. “It’ll be good to get that first one under the belt,” he said, adjusting to the ice and the venue, although the lighting will be different.

Just the experience in Philadelphia will be a plus, Callahan believes. “We can really enjoy it this time around,” Callahan said. “The last time, you weren’t sure what to expect.”

Neither player knows exactly what to expect from new coach Alain Vigneault, however, with Girardi engaging in a brief conversation (“just family stuff’) while AV was touring the training center in Westchester a week ago, and with Callahan talking with the former Vancouver bench boss on the phone.

“I always think the captain is the arm of the coach, to extend what he’s trying to do and teach the players as best he can and vice versa,” Callahan said. “That’s a relationship we have to build with AV. As I get to know him better, that’s something we’ll work on.’’ Callahan said he has not spoken to ex-coach John Tortorella since his departure, but noted: “Unfortunately, that’s the harder part of the business, to see a coach go. He did great things, and as an organization we went pretty far under him.”

Girardi characterized Torts’ firing as “a little bit surprising…In New York, there’s a lot of pressure on the coach to get the job done and I thought Torts did a great job with the guys in the room. We all loved him. That’s part of the business. Sometimes a coaching change has to happen. I think it’s a good time for us. We kind of just made a trade with Vancouver, which is pretty interesting. We’re happy to have AV here; He seems like a great guy and he wants to win. I think we’re all excited to have a different feel behind the bench and get the excitement going, get a little different system going.…(But) I don’t think my game’s going to change quite a bit. I’m successful when I play that way, so don’t think I’ll be getting out of the way of any shots; maybe (there’s) less to block.”

For Callahan, “getting a new coach, there’s going to be an adjustment period with that. I’m just excited to have a training camp this year; last year it was hard to jump right in, then having the games so compact. (But) the shoulder’s not going to be a problem when I get going, it won’t hinder me.”

Up next: Jeff Gorton on talks with Derek Stepan and Henrik Lundqvist.

Tags: Dan Girardi , Ryan Callahan , John Tortorella

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