With only 19 games left in the regular season, the Rangers need the scoring -- and the spirit -- of St. Louis.
Martin St. Louis, that is, who practiced with his new club Thursday for the first time since Wednesday's blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay for Ryan Callahan.
After flying to New York, the veteran right wing and two-time NHL scoring leader could not immediately ignite a team shaken by the sendoff of a captain and longtime friend, and the Rangers lost to Toronto, 3-2, in overtime.
"There's no dipping the toe in, you've got to jump right in," St. Louis said before the Rangers flew to Raleigh, N.C., where they will face the Hurricanes on Friday night. "That's what I'm trying to do, trying to fit in and get acclimated with new teammates. Some of the new systems are a little bit different than what I'm used to, but it's not anything I haven't played before, so I'm trying to get comfortable as fast as I can.
"We're in the thick of things here. This is a crucial time of the season. There's not much time to think and reflect. I will reflect at some point, probably this summer."
Off the ice, the transition after playing 14 years with Tampa Bay will be smoother because of familiar surroundings. St. Louis, 38, his wife, Heather, and their sons, Ryan, Lucas and Mason, live in Greenwich, Conn., in the offseason and he trains nearby.
But replacing a core player in Callahan requires time. "The fact that we're going to get on the road will give me a chance to get to know the guys, the guys get to know me," said St. Louis, a native of Laval, Quebec. "When you've been somewhere for a long time, you're yourself and you don't think about it. I have to try to be myself here as fast as I can so it can reflect how I carry myself on the ice."
St. Louis should be in more of a comfort zone against the Hurricanes. In 76 games against Carolina, he has 38 goals and 49 assists.
However, getting up to speed isn't limited to St. Louis. The Rangers are winless in their last three and 1-2-1 since the Olympic break ended.
"Hank needs to be the Hank we saw before going to the Olympics. Nasher needs to be the Nasher we saw, Mac, Step," Alain Vigneault said of Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. "OK, now we've lost our captain, some guys have lost a very good friend, I understand their feelings . . . The hangover was [Wednesday] and it has to be a short one. We've got to move on and build new relationships.
"Any time you change one player, you change the dynamics of your group. Yes, we've lost a very important member, but we've added a great piece and we need to let those dynamics form and I think it's going to be real good."