MINNEAPOLIS -- Several young Rangers will bring some outdoor game experience with them when, as expected, the Rangers play the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

Minnesota natives Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh were teammates when the Wisconsin Badgers defeated Michigan, 3-2, in 20-degree weather at Madison's Camp Randall Stadium against Michigan on Feb. 6, 2010 before 55,000 fans. Another collegian in that game, Wolverines captain Carl Hagelin, signed a contract with the Rangers in April, skated in the AHL playoffs and will be at training camp in September.

"It was super cold, but you adjust," Stepan, 21, who recorded two assists in the win and will be a guest at Friday's draft with McDonagh and another Minnesota native on the Rangers, defenseman Michael Sauer. "We had two late power plays," said Stepan, a center who scored 21 goals and 45 points in his NHL rookie season. "If we're in Philly, it will be a lot of fun."

Stepan, who lives in Lakeville, about 30 minutes from St. Paul, has been skating and working out for about three weeks with several players, including the Sabres' Drew Stafford.

"I took a break because after we lost in the playoffs," Stepan said, "we had a few days off and then I went straight to Slovakia," where he joined the U.S. team for the World Championships. Stepan had two goals and five assists in seven games as the U.S. lost in the quarterfinals.

For Stepan, who was chosen 51st overall by the Rangers out of Shattuck-St. Mary's High School in the 2008 draft, watching the selections live will be special. Will he sit at the draft table with the Blueshirt brass? "I don't know, I don't think they need my advice," he said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Remember, Stepan advised, "I didn't even go [to the draft] in 2008. I went to the combine, and it seemed I wasn't going to go until the fourth or fifth round. I had to be back to Madison for training and stayed home and told [Badger] coach [Mike Eaves] I'd be there. I watched the first round Friday night on TV, and then on Saturday, I watched some while eating breakfast and didn't really find out 'til later. Now looking back, I wish I would have gone."

Notes & quotes: Due to the continuing construction at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers won't play their home opener until Oct. 27 against the Leafs, the team said. The season openers are in Stockholm on Oct. 7 and 8, against the Ducks and Kings, followed by a Western Canada road trip. The full schedule will be released Thursday.