RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s the ex-Rangers vs. the Rangers.
Well, not really. But the Hurricanes had ex-Rangers forward Jesper Fast, defensemen Tony DeAngelo, Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith and goalie Antti Raanta in their lineup for Game 1 of their second-round series on Wednesday night at PNC Arena. Plus, Derek Stepan was a healthy scratch.
“Playing there and having a couple of friends over there, I think it will be that much more to getting on the ice and making sure you compete,” said Smith, who signed as a free agent after four-plus seasons with the Rangers.
“I’m excited,” said Fast, who played for the Rangers from 2013-20 before joining the Hurricanes as a free agent. “A little special feeling playing the Rangers in the playoffs.”
Raanta, who served as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup from 2015-17, started his fifth straight game and seventh of the playoffs with Frederik Andersen (lower body) out.
“Playing with Hank was probably one of the biggest things,” Raanta said. “Great memories. My daughter was born in New York. That’s a big thing. A lot of good people in that organization.”
The Rangers selected Skjei 28th overall in 2012 before trading him to the Hurricanes on Feb. 24, 2020. He matched his career high with 39 points this season.
“This year he has been put in a real position to succeed,” said Smith, who was paired with Skjei when he first joined the Rangers. “If he’s not our best D-man, he’s right in the mix. I did foresee this. He does everything.”
The Hurricanes won three of the four regular-season games between the teams so Fast said the novelty of playing his former team has waned.
“It was probably more at the beginning of the year when we were all coming in,” Fast said. “But when we play them four times, that’s behind us now.”