42° Good Morning
42° Good Morning

Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad enjoying his visits to the U.S. Open

Ottawa Senators center Mika Zibanejad skates during the

Ottawa Senators center Mika Zibanejad skates during the third period of an NHL game against the Boston Bruins in Boston on Dec. 13, 2014. Credit: AP / Winslow Townson

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — So what’s a young Swede new to the Big Apple do in late summer?

Catch a little tennis at the U.S. Open.

After all Mika Zibanejad, the 23-year-old center who was acquired by the Rangers from Ottawa for Derick Brassard on July 18, began playing tennis at age four and had a coach at 14.

So it was no surprise that Zibanejad has visited Flushing Meadows twice since Saturday and is closely following the matches on TV.

“I played a lot as a youngster, then turned to soccer — besides hockey,” Zibanejad said after an informal skate with more than a dozen players at the team’s training center on Thursday.

At 6-2 and 211 pounds, we’re guessing he would give teammate Henrik Lundqvist quite a battle on the court.

Lundqvist, one of five Blueshirts selected for the World Cup, was a healthy scratch for Sweden’s 3-2 overtime loss to Finland in Thursday’s pre-tournament game in Helsinki. But Lundqvist is expected to start against Finland in a rematch on Saturday in Sweden.

Rangers in town

Here’s some updates on other Rangers already in town before training camp starts Sept. 22:

Kevin Hayes and pal Jimmy Vesey raved about the crowds at the weekly Foxboro, Mass. summer league games.

With Vesey in earshot on Thursday, Hayes bragged about his team’s 6-2 championship game victory over Vesey’s squad.

Vesey’s comeback? “I wasn’t there that day, I was here,” he said

Nathan Gerbe, by far the shortest player on the ice at 5-foot-4, was the speediest. Gerbe, 29, who has played for the Sabres and Hurricanes and signed as a free agent, has been training with Chris Kreider and other NHL players at the well-known Prentiss Hockey Performance facilities in nearby Fairfield County, Conn.

Pavel Buchnevich’s English is slowly improving. The Russian rookie has been in the area much of the summer, but the team will provide a translator for training camp and beyond.

After the informal ended, forward Oscar Lindberg, who underwent hip surgery in early May, was on the ice for the second consecutive day. Lindberg has been skating for the last three weeks in Sweden and progressing very well in his rehab.

Blue notes

Among the other players at Thursday’s session: Rick Nash, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Marek Hrivik, Brady Skjei, Nick Holden and Adam Clendening. Kevin Klein skated on Wednesday. Veteran Michael Grabner is on his way here from Austria . . . Most players heading to Traverse City, Mich., for the annual prospects tournament, which starts Sept. 16, will arrive here for a practice late next week.


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