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Eric Staal gives Rangers a big net presence

Eric Staal #12 of the New York

Eric Staal #12 of the New York Rangers skates in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in New York City. .... Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — At practice Wednesday, the Rangers experimented with having a 6-4, 205-pound forward camp out in front of Henrik Lundqvist’s net.

Welcome to the Rangers’ new (Eric) Staal Tactic.

“The thing with him,” Lundqvist said, “is he’s so tall it’s hard as a goalie to see the puck when he’s around the net. Long reach, too.”

Lundqvist knows of what he speaks since he played against Staal for many years. But now that Staal is a Ranger after Sunday’s trade with the Hurricanes, Lundqvist likes what he sees — or can’t see.

Staal likes it, too.

“We’ve got some big bodies here that can make plays and we’ve got guys that are able to get ugly in front of the net,” Staal said. “The way the game is now, there’s a lot of point shots, a lot of second chances, screens. Got to get hungry. Got to get in front of the goalie.”

Staal made his whirlwind Rangers debut on Monday and had one shot in 15:43 of ice time in the Blueshirts’ 2-1 win over Columbus. He won 9 of 17 faceoffs. After Tuesday’s day off, Staal and the Rangers got a chance to get better acquainted during Wednesday’s full practice before a pair of road games at Pittsburgh and Washington beginning Thursday night.

“It was nice to be out here with the guys and get comfortable learning the way they do things here,” Staal said. “Good practice. I’m settling down a little bit more.”

On Tuesday, the Rangers held their annual Casino Night charity event. The new guy went to that, too, which he admitted only increased his “whirlwind” feeling of the last few days.

“Nice at the same time to meet a lot of the people throughout the city and know a lot of people are excited to have me here and welcoming me,” he said. “Kind of getting me more excited down the stretch drive and playoffs. Getting me pumped up for the rest of the season.”

Notes & quotes: On his 34th birthday, Lundqvist was named to the initial 16-man roster for the Swedish team for the World Cup of Hockey, an eight-team tournament that will be played Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto . . . Coach Alain Vigneault said Rick Nash (knee) “should be back with the team in 10 days to two weeks.” . . . Jesper Fast (flu) will miss the next two games. The Rangers will call up an emergency forward from Hartford, probably Marek Hrivik.


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