The Rangers will open up their Eurotrip in the Czech Republic against HC Sparta Praha tomorrow.
Team History: Sparta is older than the Rangers, having been founded in 1909. The team has a small historical guide on their website if you want to check it out. Last season they were 12th out of 14 teams, which is bad but what is even worse is that they were seven spots below their cross-town rivals, Slavia Praha.
Arena: The Rangers faced off against Tampa at the O2 Arena - Slavia's home - and this time are four kilometers away at Sparta's home rink, the far older Tesla Arena. Tesla was opened back in 1962 - by comparison MSG opened in 1968 - and this place needs a renovation far, far worse than the Garden did. It sits about three thousand less (13,995 total) but they are some hard rocking, diehard fans who sing, sing and sing some more.
Where They Are: Four games into their season. They stumbled out of the gates but are coming off of their lone win, a 6-2 trouncing of Pardubice on Tuesday.
Familiar Foes: A number of their players were drafted by NHL teams and several played in the AHL but just spent any real kind of time in the NHL - Petr Tenkrat. Tenkrat played a total of 177 games for the Ducks, Preds and Bruins. He has been in Europe since 2007 bouncing between the Extraliga, Elitserien (Sweden) and SM-Liiga (Finland). Tomas and Ivan Rachunek are the younger brothers for former Ranger Karel (who passed away in the Lokomotiv crash, RIP). Former Blue Jacket David Vyborny had played for Sparta for years but transferred to Mlada Boleslav this summer.
Who To Watch For: Petr Ton was their leading scorer last season with 36 points in 52 games but Tenkrat and Tomas Rachinek each are averaging a point per game so far. Alex Foster was the captain of the AHL's Toronto Marlies and signed to play in Prague this summer; he is the lone North American on the squad. Michal Sersen, a defenseman, played junior with Crosby in the Q - all the more reason to hate him.
What Can We Expect: Probably nothing like this, at least physically. You have to figure that Sparta will try to use the larger ice to their advantage. They can stretch the Rangers defense in the wider rink - just think how Michael Del Zotto was thrown out of position on a small rink, in this one he might end up in another country. But, given how impressed several of the Praha players were watching the Ranger practice, they may just sit back and get trounced 8-1 the way Bern was by the boys a few years back.