The week off was great, but it ended just in time. As John Tortorella said Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, "We have practiced enough, we have rested enough, we have taped enough. It's a good time to play a game."
Jeff Woywitka, the defenseman claimed on waivers from the Canadiens last week, said the players were hungry to get back to competition after two games in Europe and a week in Westchester. He made his Rangers debut Saturday night.
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"When we practiced, we practiced hard. I especially needed it just to get going again," Woywitka said.
Woywitka took the place of Michael Sauer (shoulder), who was scratched.
Wojtek Wolski (groin) also was out.
Like father, like son
Tim Erixon had his first taste of the Rangers-Islanders rivalry, although he had slightly more of an idea than most first-timers do. His father, Jan, played in many of the New York-New York games during his career with the Rangers.
"He liked to play in these big games. So do I," the younger Erixon said. When he was asked jokingly if his father told him this is the team he needs to hate, he said, "I pretty much knew that."
Derek Stepan played left wing with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The natural center said he had played 10 to 15 games at wing at the University of Wisconsin. He came into the game with a definite strategy for skating with the two high-profile offensive forwards.
"I think my job is to get them the puck," he said. "When it comes time for me to have the puck, I'll try to make plays and play my game. I'll just try to fit in."