During his online chat today, New York Rangers writer Jim Cerny told me, "the expectation is that Rangers will bring a large roster to Europe, maybe not two full squads, but my guess is 30 or so players...final cuts, I would expect, will take place there..."
I tried to figure out a way to hit all of them and let me tell you, it isn't easy. While I may not have the resources that the Rangers have, it would still be very tough for the team to bounce from the Czech Republic to Sweden to Slovakia to Switzerland in that short of a time span. Unlike you or I, if they wanted to the Rangers can be in two places at the same time - they can split the squad like baseball teams do every spring. Prague to Bratislava is a three hour drive, Gothenburg to Zug is about four hours total - plane to Zurich, train or bus to Zug.
They may very well go with one expanded side but, for argument's sake, here is a look at two teams that the Rangers can ice based on the various marketing needs and desires of the coaching staff and the situations.
Team Blue would be the side that plays the pair of games in the former Czechoslovakia. For PR/ethnic purposes, you have a Slovak in Gabby and a Czech in Kundratek, not to mention Wolski and Fedotenko who are from the nearby Poland and Ukraine respectively. Yes, Wolski grew up in Canada but surely the Poles are proud of him - after all, the top Polish NHLers were former Islander Mariusz Czerkawski and former Ranger Krzysztof Oliwa (remember him?). On the hockey side of things you have the three top left wing candidates for the first line around to rotate and try to find chemistry. MDZ and Christian Thomas could get some power play time with Richards and Gabby and the Henrik-less goaltending has the top D pairing to help defend. You also have protection in Rupp, Prust and Weise against the more physical of the foreign sides the Rangers are facing.
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Wojtek Wolski-Erik Christensen-Christian Thomas
Mike Rupp-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Sean Avery-Chad Kolarik-Dale Weise
Marc Staal-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger
Mikhail Pashnin-Tomas Kundratek
Martin Biron/Chad Johnson/Scott Stajcer
Team White will participate in the lovefest that is sure to be the Frolunda game before heading to face a pretty soft Swiss side in Zug. The game in Gothenburg will be as close to a testimonial for Hank as you can get. The Indians fans worshipped him and he would also have a healthy surrounding of Scandic players around him that they would enjoy seeing. It would also could bring forth some whistles (booing) as Zuc was dominant for Modo against Frolunda before he came to America. On the hockey side you have all of the Rangers second line and a possible version of their third if Hagelin can win a job. Lindberg, Fasth and Erixon were on Sweden's World Junior team together so perhaps that will help them play with a certain comfort level - one that doesn't usually come in NHL auditions. Yes, Redden is on the roster. His money doesn't have to disappear from the cap until the real games start and, by all accounts, he was a big part of the maturation of McDonagh last season so he could help Erixon acclimate further. Who knows, perhaps he will fall in love with Zug and leave the team to play there. His game would be great in the Swiss National League.
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
Andreas Thuresson-Oscar Lindberg-Jasper Fasth
Andrew Yogan-John Mitchell-Ryan Bourque
Ryan McDonagh-Mike Sauer
Tim Erixon-Jyri Niemi
Pavel Valentenko-Wade Redden
Henrik Lundqvist/Cam Talbot/Jason Missiaen
No matter how the team decides to play it, I expect to be at three of the four games (no Bratislava) and the two regular season Stockholm matches so make sure you stop by for game recaps.