SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Assistant coach Mike Sullivan ushered a youngster toward the Rangers' Enver Lisin in the small locker room at the Alltel Ice Den, where the team had just completed a spirited hour-long practice. "This is Alex," Sullivan said. "He says he was one of your biggest fans here."
Lisin, who will play his first game against the Coyotes - his original NHL club - on Saturday in Phoenix, had seemed a little wistful while discussing his memories of playing here. He stopped, grabbed the marker and signed the boy's cap. "See?" he said with a smile, as if the event was a rarity in hectic Manhattan.
"It feels weird," Lisin acknowledged, returning to the locale where he experienced his first NHL training camp after arriving from Russia in 2006. "We'd practice here [at the public rink] about once a month," the 23-year-old winger said. "I liked the city, I liked the weather . . . But if I had to go anywhere, it would be New York."
"No, it's not going to be like 'just another game' tomorrow," he said. But he wouldn't take the bait from Brian Boyle, who urged him to admit that he was going "to shove it to them" for trading him. "I'm not like that, I'm peaceful," said Lisin, who played with a broken bone in his foot in early December and has six goals and seven assists this season. "I play every game as hard as I can. But it won't seem like a regular game."
Notes & quotes: Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather told Newsday that he thought his club, losers of four straight, was still in the playoff hunt. "Why wouldn't I? Just about the only team that's out of it is Edmonton," Sather said. "The East is so tight. The Isles lost [Thursday] night; Philly lost. Everybody thinks they are in it. It's good for the league and the fans, not always for some teams. It's tougher than it's been." What about possible trades? "People don't realize how difficult it is," he said . . . Wade Redden, one of the six defensemen the club is carrying on the three-game trip and who was benched for 37 minutes Wednesday, had a five-minute one-on-one with coach John Tortorella during practice. "He has his view and I told him mine, and we've turned the page," Redden said.