GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Here is an indication of how significant Matt Gilroy is in the Rangers' universe. During an offensive-zone drill after the morning scrimmage, coach John Tortorella called on three players to work on a play. He summoned them this way: "You, you and Matt."
Not that Tortorella gives anybody special space. Far from it. He is more likely to call out someone who isn't going as hard as he should, which the coach did Monday with Gilroy's fellow Long Islander Christopher Higgins. Tortorella didn't even take special notice of the potential high scorer, Marian Gaborik, who didn't scrimmage but skated (without a problem) after having taken two days off as a precaution.
It's just that Gilroy's name rolls off the tongue of anyone in the organization who knows his story and his game.
The North Bellmore native is a rookie, but he has been around. He is 25, having been a late bloomer out of St. Mary's High and a walk-on at Boston University. He was totally passed over in the NHL draft when he was eligible, so he was a free agent, coming off the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player and an NCAA title. Instead of having some team choose him, he chose the Rangers, mindful that there would be boot camp-style days like yesterday.
"Coach [Jack] Parker's bag skates back in Boston were pretty bad, but I wish I could go back to those," Gilroy said, with a grin. Fact is, he doesn't long for college. He is fine with where he is.
"I chose to come play for coach Tortorella. I love the way he coaches and lets his defensemen join the rush and take chances," Gilroy said. "I kind of knew what I was getting myself into. It took me 25 years to get here. It beats sitting at a desk, any day."
Gilroy, trying to make the team without a day in the minors, had a good start Monday alongside Marc Staal, who is only 22 but much more experienced.
"He played well," Tortorella said of Gilroy. "He's one of the better-fit athletes we have here. We've had some conversations along the way here. He did some things we want him to do. He was up the ice, he was creating offense."
His first exhibition game, which could be Tuesday night at the Garden, will be much more than just a walk-through for a local guy (he lived this summer in Point Lookout and skated at IceWorks in Syosset and The Rinx in Hauppauge).
"It would be pretty special, to put on that blue jersey and go out there as a Ranger," Gilroy said. "I don't want to get too full of myself, I don't know if I'm playing or not, but it would be exciting."
Notes & quotes: Gaborik said he felt a little stiffness, but it had nothing to do with his surgically repaired hip . . . Higgins said he got the message that Tortorella expects effort at all times. "I hope so," Tortorella said. "I hope he gets it quick."