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Monday, April 25, 2011
Rangers notebook: Catching up with the players one last time

By Matt Ehalt

During today’s exit meetings, players filed in and out of the locker room, taking time to talk to the media one last time before heading off. ESPNNewYork.com was able to catch up with 14 players in that span. Here are the highlights from each player, excluding Marian Gaborik, who has his own blog entry.

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Veteran Chris Drury admits the past season ranks among the most frustrating of his career. He missed 53 games with a broken finger and injured knee, scoring a career-low one goal and just four assists. At the end of the year, he was relegated to one of the bottom lines and  played a team-low 5:58 in Game 5.

He heads into the offseason hoping to get back into the same routine to try and get healthy for camp. With one year left on his deal, Drury will be playing for his next contract, but it might not come in a role he’s accustomed to.

“What I’ve said all along and what I believe is whatever role coach sees fit that’s going to help us win games, for me, that’s what I’ll do," Drury said. "That wasn’t just here. That was in other cities as well and other teams. I don’t think that’s going to change, whatever any coach thinks is going to help us win games or whatever he wants me to do in that, I’ll do as best as I can.”

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Veteran forward Vinny Prospal enters the offseason with no contract, as an unrestricted free agent, but would like to come back to the Rangers.

“It’s what it is, I’m not 26 anymore, so it goes from year to year and like I said hopefully I’ll be back here,” Prospal said. “This is a fun team to play (with) and I would like to continue here.”

Injuries and age, though, might keep the Rangers away. Prospal missed the first 53 games of the season with a knee injury. While he came back against the odds, he said he had a roller coaster season as his play wasn’t consistent.

He said he’s skipping the World Championships and strengthening the quad muscle and other muscles around the knee to get ready for September—hopefully with the Rangers.

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Forward Ryan Callahan, who missed the playoffs with a fractured ankle, said his injury is progressing like it’s supposed to and everything should be OK in a couple of weeks. He said he could have returned for the Stanley Cup or Conference Championships. He said watching the team, instead of playing, wasn’t easy.

“It’s pretty tough. You battle with these guys all year, you work so hard and you get to the best part of the year, the most fun, and you’re sitting and having to watch, it’s a tough thing to do and something I didn’t enjoy,” Callahan said. “It’s part of the game and it happens and now I know next year going into the year I want to be right back there and I want to be playing.”

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Forward Sean Avery is heading into the final year of his contract of a rough year in which he was a healthy scratch in five of the team’s final 11 games, and the first playoff game He scored just three goals, his lowest since his rookie season in 2001-02.

He said it was a difficult season and he was happy with how he played in the playoffs, saying he let himself go, instead of worrying about things that he said he can’t worry about. Avery calls his style of play risk-reward.

“I don’t want to talk how I played because ultimately we’re sitting here, our season is over with, but I felt like I played the type of game I’ve played and I think that game helps a team,” Avery said about his playoffs performance. “Is it always going to be perfect? But over the long haul, and the course of a season, I think that is going to be beneficial.”

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Forward Brandon Dubinsky had a career-high 24 goals and 30 assists for a career-high 54 points. He said he wants to be more consistent next season, which will be his fifth in the NHL, and he’s focusing on getting his mind in the right place.

Dubinsky is a restricted free agent and hopes his contract negotiations go smoother than last time, when he held out in 2009 before getting his contract.  He will not play in the World Championships.

“I’d like to get it done as quick as possible,” Dubinsky said of a new deal. “I think the Rangers want me and I want the Rangers so end of the day we might as well not waste each other's time and draw it out as long as it was. At the end of the day, the sooner it’s done, the sooner I can focus on putting all my energy and efforts into this organization.”

He said the stress fracture in his left leg from earlier in the season was possibly related to the skate he wore.

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Goalie Henrik Lundqvist said he’s still disappointed that the team got eliminated from the playoffs and said the team had an opportunity in Game 1 and Game 4, both games in which they had third-period leads, but the team has to move on. He said he was in a good place physically and mentally as he started the final 26 games of the season.

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Forward Brandon Prust said he will start training in three weeks, probably going to a beach to relax in the meantime. He played all 82 games for the Rangers, battling through all his minor injuries to score 13 goals and notch 16 assists. He said the summer will be a good time to heal and he took pride in his streak, saying he didn’t want to leave the lineup because he had to scratch and claw just to get in there. He said being traded to the Rangers was the best thing to happen for his career.

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Defenseman Dan Girardi, who played with a dislocated finger in Game 5 and later needed an x-ray and stitches, didn’t seem to make much of his toughness. He said he just needs rest to heal his injuries.

“It was pretty tough but it’s that time of year where we needed everyone to be playing and play hard and just have to kind of suck it up and get out there and battle through whatever you have,” Girardi said. “Everyone is nicked up here and there and it’s the thing you have to do at this time of year.”

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Defenseman Marc Staal said he does not need any medical procedures on his injured knee, just rest. He wasn’t able to remember the official diagnosis. He said it was just sore all the time, but rest will be good enough.

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Backup goalie Martin Biron, who missed the last 18 games of the season with a fractured collarbone, said he will be fine in a couple of weeks and expects to start working out in a few weeks. He will be back with the Rangers and is ready to work with Lundqvist, who started every game with Biron sidelined.

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Rookie Derek Stepan said he had a good first season and  he is ready for a good summer of training, looking to get stronger, faster and shoot harder, among other things. He said he plans to go back to his home state of Minnesota, but is not sure if he is going to take summer courses to work toward getting his degree.

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Rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh said starting the season with AHL Connecticut was a good thing and he learned a lot  playing with the Whale and it fueled his desire to stay with the Rangers when he eventually was called up.

He is not sure if he will play in the World Championships, but would love to, and does not regret leaving the University of Wisconsin early. McDonagh said he’d like to work toward his degree.

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Forward Erik Christensen said he felt better in his second year with the Rangers than his first year, saying he had longer stretches of feeling good and playing with confidence, and fewer stretches where he didn’t feel confident. He finished with 11 goals and 16 assists.