The Rangers had day off after watching the Swedes swoon for Hank and Sunday they will see the Slovaks welcome Marian Gaborik as he leads the Blueshirts into Bratislava for a game against HC Slovan. Sadly I won't be there as I am heading directly to Switzerland ahead of Monday's match with Zug. So no one will be there to yell "Let's Go Rangers" during the anthem, sorry.
Arena: Ondrej Nepela Arena was the main building for the 2011 World Championships. It holds just over 10,000 fans and already saw a NHL team come visiting when Tampa Bay played an exhibition before we beat them in Prague in 2008. The Bolts beat Bratislava 3-2 in overtime.
Team History: Slovan finished first in the Slovak Extraliga during the regular season in '10-11 but they lost in the playoff's quarterfinals to Dukla Trencin. They are expected to wear a special sweater for the game against the Rangers what will honour their 90th anniversary.
Where They Are Now: They are 5-1-1 so far this season and are coming off of a 4-2 win over HK 36 Skalica on Friday.
Familiar Foes: When Tampa was in town they caught up with former Lightning forward Zdeno Ciger, who was and still is Bratislava's head coach. Ciger, who also played for the Rangers (best if you don't remember that), basically explained to the media how John Tortorella drove him out of the league. That should make for a warm reunion. Old foe Miro Satan is on a monthly deal with the Slovaks while he prays some NHL team can find a place for him. Jozef Balej, the blue chip prospect we got for Alex Kovalev way back when, joined the team this summer. David Skokan, a 2007 Ranger draft pick, is on their roster and is excited to face the franchise he couldn't make. Former NHL journeyman Richard Jackman is listed on their website but he jumped ship over the summer and now plays in Korea with Anyang Halla. Hallaaaaaaa!
Who To Watch For: Satan leads a first line that is all averaging better than a point per game per player. Roman Kukumberg, a '04 Leafs pick, is the center while Michal Hudec is on the other wing. Huder played USHL for a season and was on the 1999 Slovakian World Junior side alongside Gabby. Balej is still a bust, with just two goals and no assists in Slovan's seven games.
What Can We Expect: A Gaborik love-fest, but one not at the same level as Hank's in Gothenburg - Gabby played for HC Dukla Trenčín, not Slovan. It shouldn't be all that physical - the Slovak's PIM leader has just 10 min in seven games. I would figure Satan will do all he can to score just so someone back in the States can see he is still a salvageable player. But the best part is that the fans are planning to put on an amazing display. The Rangers, for their part, will just try to keep working towards game form and finding chemistry. We will see if both Christy and Avery make the roster for the game or if one will play there, the other in Zug while they battle for the final forward spot. Also get to see how MDZ and Stu Bickel reward the coach's faith after he kept both after the penultimate round of cuts.