LAS VEGAS – Rangers coach Gerard Gallant is an old-school hockey guy. He doesn’t come off as the kind of person who gets overly emotional about things.
But he admitted Wednesday that returning to T-Mobile Arena, where the Rangers on Thursday will face his old team, the Vegas Golden Knights, is going to be … different.
"I think tomorrow night's going to be a little interesting,’’ Gallant said after the Rangers practiced in the Golden Knights’ practice rink. "Seeing that building, (hearing) the National Anthem… good memories, obviously, from that building.’’
Gallant said the Vegas fans "treated me A-1 here,’’ and he really enjoyed his two-and-a-half seasons coaching the Golden Knights. He guided them to the Stanley Cup Finals in their expansion season of 2017-18, but was fired midway through the 2019-20 season.
He said he was grateful that the Rangers had already played against Vegas a few weeks ago in Madison Square Garden. Having gotten that out of the way should make it a little easier on Thursday, he said.
"Tomorrow night will probably be a little tough, but it'll be fun,’’ he said. "I'm looking forward to it.’’
Gallant said it will be more special for forward Ryan Reaves to return to Las Vegas than for him.
"I'll prepare myself for the game and it'll be nice, but it's really about Ryan Reaves coming back here,’’ Gallant said. "I mean, Reavo's a fan favorite and he deserved that. As a coach, it's nice, but it's not the same as a player. So I'm hoping they have a big cheer for Reavo.’’
Reaves, who played for the Golden Knights for their first four seasons before being traded to the Rangers over the summer, has spoken often about how entrenched he became in Las Vegas, and how his time here rejuvenated his career. The popular, 34-year-old enforcer has a beermaking business in the city, still owns a house here, and said he plans to live in Las Vegas when his playing days are over.
"The city holds a special place in my heart,’’ he said.
Assuming the Knights play a tribute video for him, Reaves said "I'm sure I'm gonna have to fight a little bit (of emotion) back.’’
"I’ve got to remember not to yell 'Knight,' during the anthem,’’ he said.
He made it clear, though, that his loyalties won’t be divided. He’s a Ranger now, and if he has to fight one of his former teammates he’ll be happy to do it.
"I've never fought a friend,’’ he said. "But if the game calls for it … then by all means, they can have it. ‘’
Notes & quotes: D K’Andre Miller had an inconclusive COVID test Tuesday and did not fly with the team to Las Vegas, the Rangers announced Wednesday. But the team said Miller later tested negative and would join the team later in the day… D Patrik Nemeth, who missed that last two games with what the team described as "a non-COVID issue,’’ was placed in non-roster status. Gallant was asked if Nemeth is all right. "It's personal, but he's OK,’’ Gallant said … D Jarred Tinordi cleared COVID protocol, traveled to Las Vegas and practiced with the team for the first time since Dec. 26.