Prospal wants to stay a Ranger

New York Rangers' Vinny Prospal, left, celebrates his New York Rangers' Vinny Prospal, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Marc Staal in the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (February 14, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Vinny Prospal, who turned 35 during the Olympic break, was a bit disappointed not to be in Vancouver with the Czech Republic team. He'll be even more disappointed if he's not a Ranger after next Wednesday's trade deadline.

"I hope I don't have to think about anything like that," Prospal told Newsday after the 16 non-Olympic Rangers finished an hour-long workout run by assistant general manager / coach Jim Schoenfeld and associate coach Mike Sullivan on Wednesday at the MSG Training Center. "I hope I play good enough that they keep me around. We're right in the middle of [the playoff race]."

It's Prospal's good play that should make him a more attractive trade commodity. Rangers president Glen Sather very rarely has been the one to ship off veterans for draft picks or prospects at the deadline - 2004 was the only other time, and the Rangers collected very little from all their unloading that year - and this year, with the team tied for ninth and a point out of a playoff berth with 20 games to go, it's doubtful that Sather will be in major sell-off mode.

But Prospal could fetch a nice reward. He's playing on a one-year, $1.15-million deal that has to rank as one of the best values in the league this season.

The Hurricanes want to deal 37-year-old forward Ray Whitney before Wednesday and Carolina believes it can get a first-round pick back. Prospal is two years younger, is having an almost identical season (he has 14 goals and 33 assists in 55 games; Whitney has 19 goals and 29 assists in 59 games) and is fully healthy after knee surgery in December.

Prospal knows this is out of his control, but he has his opinion about being a deadline rental for a team more solidly in the Stanley Cup chase.

"I've already done that in the past," he said, referring to the 2008 trade deadline, when the Lightning (with coach John Tortorella) shipped Prospal to the Flyers, with whom he made the Eastern Conference finals before being traded back to Tampa Bay in June.

"I'm very happy with the way things are going here," he said, noting that his agent and Sather have had no discussions on a contract extension. "The most important thing is I have family here, the kids are in school and I don't like the thought of being away from them for who knows how long.

"I just hope the aspect of us being in the playoff race is a big thing. I hope I'll stay here and stay for a long time."

Notes & quotes: D Michael Del Zotto (lacerated chest) said he's feeling better, but he won't skate until the 51 stitches he got from being cut by the skate of the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin are removed, which will be either Friday or tomorrow. He is uncertain for Tuesday's game in Ottawa.

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