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Former Ranger Dan Girardi ready for ‘weird’ game against old team

Dan Girardi spent the first 11 years of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, but that all changed this summer when the team decided to buy out his contract.

For those of us on the outside, the decision was a lot less surprising. Stay-at-home defensemen with big contracts are becoming more and more rare, so the fact that the Rangers wanted to move on from the inflated contract wasn’t exactly shocking for the average hockey fan.

Still, being forced to leave the only team you’ve ever known couldn’t have been easy. Now, he’ll get the chance to suit up against his former team for the first time, on Thursday night.

Most players pretend like this is just another game, but not Girardi, who told NHL.com that Thursday’s game is “still going to be weird” even though it’s being played in Tampa, not New York.

The Lightning have more overall depth than the Rangers, so they’ve been able to use Girardi in a much more limited role than he had been playing with New York in the past. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the 33-year-old was averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. In his first season with the Bolts, he’s playing just 16:33 per game, which is probably just right for him at this stage of his career.

“Definitely, it’s kind of a different role,” Girardi said. “They want me to still come in and play my game, but I’m not leaned upon to be the top guy. I’m paired with (Braydon) Coburn and we’re still playing some hard minutes against top lines, [but] my job is to be really good defensively and if I can contribute on offense it’s great.”

Obviously, contributing offensively isn’t his forte (he has one assist in 13 games), but he’s been a decent fit with his new squad.

Girardi’s CF% is under 50 percent at 47.6. But considering he isn’t great with the puck on his stick and that he starts in the defensive zone 57.4 percent of the time, those are fair numbers for the veteran. During his final three years in New York, his CF% was 46.3, 41.3 and 44.

For those wondering when Girardi will get a chance to go back to New York for the first time, that’ll come on Mar. 30, 2018.

The Buzzer: Sharks dominate at MSG; Leafs edge Kings

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Player of the Night: Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks netminder stood tall Monday night during a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. Jones stopped 33 shots as San Jose won their fourth consecutive game. Logan Couture recorded two points, which included his 200th career NHL assist. He now has six goals and nine points in four games.

Highlight of the Night:

Lovely shorthanded finish here by Trevor Lewis to help the Los Angeles Kings cut the Toronto Maple Leafs lead to 3-2 late in their game:

MISC:

• Congrats to Tim Heed for scoring his first NHL goal.

• New York’s power play failed on all six opportunities.

• The Rangers have won only twice in eight home games this season.

Frederik Andersen stopped 36 shots and Patrick Marleau recorded his fourth of the year as the Maple Leafs edged the Kings 3-2.

• Marleau’s goal stood as the game-winner and was the 99th of his career, good for eighth all-time.

• A weird sequence in the first period saw Jonathan Quick take an elbow to the head and be briefly forced from the game due to a concussion spotter’s call. Oddly, it took several minutes for Quick to be removed from the game, and then he was only off the ice for whistle.

Factoid of the Night: 

Monday’s scores:

San Jose 4, New York Rangers 1

Toronto 3, Los Angeles 2

18 going on 30: Habs’ prospect Fucale must be patient behind Price

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Being a goalie prospect with Carey Price entrenched in Montreal probably feels like trying to make headway in New Jersey during Martin Brodeur’s lengthy run (or doing the same with the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist now).

Canadiens prospect Zachary Fucale seems OK with the idea of being patient, at least according to what he told NHL.com on Thursday.

“My goal, my dream, my vision is to play in the NHL,” Fucale said. “That’s where I want to play. Every time I get to be in an NHL camp, that’s a chance to be up there. So my goal is to play in the NHL, whether I’m 18 or 30. That’s what I want to accomplish, I want to prove to the Montreal Canadiens that I can play.”

(Does anyone else picture “13 Going on 30” Photoshop scenarios after reading that quote? No? Fair enough …)

It’s an interesting scenario for Fucale, who turned 20 in May.

While Price definitely stands as a barricade to his goal of being the top guy – backup duty wouldn’t be as tough to come by – it’s clear the Canadiens organization will eventually give him a chance to prove himself.

Montreal selected Fucale with a second-round pick (36th overall) in 2013, so it’s not like Fucale is some obscure prospect.

One most easily imagines him making an impression as a backup before perhaps being traded somewhere to get a starting gig, but the young netminder is right in pointing out that things can change pretty quickly at the goalie position in the NHL.

Indeed, Price could probably relate to Fucale’s situation, as Jose Theodore was the guy in net when he was drafted back in 2005.

Ultimately, it’s wise for Fucale to take the “step by step” approach right now. Then again, does he really have a choice?

Interviewer: Raanta’s rooting against Hawks quote is real, but needs context

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A report from Ilta-Sanomat claimed that goaltender Antti Raanta hoped that the Nashville Predators would sweep his Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Raanta has since denied making those comments, but the man who interviewed him, Juha Luotola, says he has it on tape.

At the same time, Luotola feels that the quote being passed around lacks context as it was just one line from a talk that lasted hours.

“Antti was frustrated after Chicago send him [a] second time [to the] AHL and he told me truly how he felt,” Luotola said, per CSN Chicago. “Statement looks bad if you read only one line from story. It’s easy to [be] misunderstood and get away from the full story. But I also know that Antti didn’t mean that in bad way. It was just his way to explain how frustrated he was: bad feeling last couple hours and after that, he was happy to be a part of team again.”

Luotola also noted that the goaltender had a lot of great things to say about his time with the Blackhawks.

Although Raanta had a 1.89 GAA and .936 save percentage in 14 games last season, he ultimately lost the backup job to Scott Darling. Chicago dealt him to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Haggerty this summer.

Raanta denies Finnish report: ‘I have never said anything like that’

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Former Blackhawks’ goaltender Antti Raanta refuted a report by Ilta-Sanomat, which said he was cheering against Chicago during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

According to the Finnish newspaper, Raanta had hoped the Nashville Predators would sweep the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

“With fingers crossed I hoped (Nashville) would beat us in four so I could get back to Finland sooner. I was so pissed,” Raanta said per Vesa Rantanen.

When reached by Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, Raanta denied the comments.

“I have never said anything like that,” he said.

The 26-year-old appeared in 14 games with the Blackhawks last season posting a 7-4-1 record to go along with a 2.39 G.A.A. and a .918 save percentage. Raanta was demoted to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in favor of Scott Darling in February.

Instead of staying with the IceHogs during the Calder Cup playoffs, Chicago recalled Raanta to be the club’s third string goaltender.

“I’m not that kind of guy that I would say something like that, and hope my team to lose, even if I’m not paying goalie,” Raanta said.

Chicago dealt Raanta to the New York Rangers in June.

For those wondering, the Rangers open their regular season schedule on Oct. 7 in Chicago.