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Rangers adjust to life inside the NHL bubble in Toronto

A section of the street outside Toronto's Royal

A section of the street outside Toronto's Royal York hotel is closed off on Sunday as NHL teams arrive at the "bubble" ahead of the return of the league's season following a disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: AP/Chris Young

Day 1 in the NHL bubble in Toronto didn’t feel that different from a normal road trip, Rangers coach David Quinn insisted Monday.

“We got to the hotel [Sunday], had a meal,’’ Quinn said on his post-practice Zoom briefing. “We had practice this morning and have a meeting tonight and [will] have dinner. I know everybody’s talking about the bubble and how difficult it might be, but I really don’t think a lot is going to be different than what we normally do on the road.’’

For the guys from the Toronto area, though, it’s not at all normal being in Toronto and not being able to see family and friends.

“It’s definitely a little weird,’’ said forward Phil DiGiuseppe, a Toronto native. “It doesn’t feel exactly like I’m home. It’s like I’m visiting.

“It kind of sucks when you get off the airplane and you’ve got to go a different way on the highway,’’ said the native of Mississauga, Ontario. “I’m literally like 10 minutes from here.’’

If things go well, the Rangers will be in the bubble for a long time. On Wednesday, they will play a warmup game against the Islanders, their first game since the NHL halted play because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12. On Saturday, they will open a best-of-five play-in series against Carolina. If they win that series, they will advance to the official 16-team playoffs, the first two rounds of which will be in Toronto. If they advance to the Eastern Conference finals, that will be in Edmonton, along with the Stanley Cup Final. If they get all the way to the end, they’ll be away from home for more than two months.

Of course, the idea of being in a bubble is all about safety. Major League Baseball returned to play last week with teams playing in their home stadiums, not in a bubble. On Monday, MLB announced that the Miami Marlins’ home opener and the Yankees’ game in Philadelphia had been postponed after more than a dozen members of the Marlins’ traveling party tested positive for the coronavirus. The Marlins had a three-game series in Philadelphia over the weekend.

“It’s unfortunate what’s happening in the MLB,’’ Ryan Strome said. “[Under] the bubble format . . . there’s a lot less issues with the travel and stuff like that . . . As long as you’re wearing your mask and you’re following the protocols that they put in place here, I don’t really see how anything could go real wrong. I mean, obviously it’s up to everyone’s individual responsibility to be smart, but the setup’s great.’’

He added, “Everyone that’s in the bubble is being tested and is following protocols. And as long as everyone’s smart and takes care of, I guess their own business, and is responsible, I don’t really see how the bubble isn’t going to work.’’   

King could be ‘King’

Henrik Lundqvist is the Rangers’ nominee for the King Clancy Trophy, which is presented to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.’’

New York Sports