GREENBURGH, N.Y.---On his first visit to New York Sunday night, rookie Mats Zuccarello Aasen and a fellow Norwegian wandered through the West Village and stopped at a trattoria named Zucca. Nothing wrong with something familiar in new surroundings.
“Yeah, did some sightseeing,” said Zuccarello, 22, the leading scorer in the Swedish league last season, “but my main goal is to try and make the team.”
Carrying a little jet lag and a big stick, the Rangers rookie joined 10 players on the ice here today on the first day of informal workouts. Training camp begins Sept. 17.
At one point in the hour-plus session, Aasen, the smallest player on the ice, dashed behind the net, pulled up and slid a backhanded pass into the crease for a scoring attempt. Then he slipped to the right of Henrik Lundqvist and zipped a shot just past the near post that had the goaltender snapping his head to look behind him.
Think Brian Gionta or Martin St. Louis. Then think a bit smaller. Say 5-7. That’s Mats, as he prefers to be called, who understands that he faces a period of transition. The biggest challenge, he thinks, will be the smaller ice surface.
“I have to learn to do everything a little quicker so I can succeed out there,” he said afterward. “In Europe, we have bigger rinks but a smaller offensive zone, so here you have a little more space to do something. In Sweden, I was in the corners and behind the nets, but in the Olympics (on the NHL-size Vancouver rink), there’s so little space, you can’t do that. You have to change your game a little.”
The Rangers brass, who signed him to a two-year deal, doesn’t want him to change much. Besides Marian Gaborik, the club struggled to score last season and hopes that the game of the right wing, who scored 23 goals and 64 points in 55 games, translates to the NHL.
“I come here open-minded,” Zuccarello said. “If I’m not good enough, I have to work on it (AHL) Hartford. I’m coming in with confidence. We’ll see where it goes.”
Loved how Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal competed. Drury seemed to take offense at a Prospal slash during a 3-on-3 and then Drury gave him the business on Prospal's chance in front... The two of them and Todd White led the team in the lap drills....Brandon Dubinsky and Aasen were paired....Pavel Valentenko was bushed afterward....C Artem Anisimov displayed the scar on the heel of his right hand where a broken bone was removed in June and declared: “It’s feels great.”…D Steve Eminger, acquired from the Ducks for Aaron Voros, was another early arrival. “There’s going to be a lot of competition on defense,” said Eminger.