GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The fallout from a September journey through the World Cup training camps, pre-tournament games and the tournament itself appears to be nothing but positive for three Rangers returnees, who are happy to be back and enthusiastic about the approaching season.
Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan skated for Team USA, which started well in the exhibition games but was eliminated with three losses. J.T. Miller was a spare forward for the North America 23-and-under squad. They all joined practice on Wednesday and will play in at least two of the last four preseason games.
“All three are very eager and energized,” coach Alain Vig neault said. “You’re not quite sure where players are going to be at after that kind of experience, but the two [on the U.S. squad] feel like they have something to prove, and the young gun who didn’t get to play that much feels he has something to prove also.”
The trio will spend the next several days undergoing testing and easing back into the camp routine.
“We came back Friday, took a couple days [off], me and Mac, and we were both just itching to be back,” Stepan said. “Did a workout Monday, Tuesday we skated with the early-morning group and today we got back in the swing of things. I feel pretty good given how much we skated in the last month, but you’ve got to be careful, because it was six pretty intense games and a good 25 days of intense hockey, so to get the balance of both is going to be really important.”
Some rest after several seasons of deep playoff runs and the early training for the World Cup left McDonagh feeling “really good — and to make it through healthy is a big thing,” he said. “We’re all preparing individually, making sure our focus is in the right place. That’ll be a big thing.”
Miller, who scored 22 goals and 43 points in 82 games last year, his first full season, admitted he is not in top game shape. “Being the extra guy, I got into just three games, so I’m trying to get my lungs and legs into it,” he said. “But I had a blast. This is the first year I feel the most prepared and know what to expect . . . for a while I was trying to prove myself offensively and when that happens, you get away from other parts of your game.”