It is understood that the 2013 NHL season will be different. A 48-game season spanning 98 days guarantees it will not be business as usual.
But what is uncertain for head coach John Tortorella is if he will have to modify his approach in the early portion of the sprint to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I don’t know,” Tortorella said when he met with reporters. He later acknowledged that he “adjusted” his plan for the first day of camp after watching his team’s informal scrimmages the previous four days. “I’ve thought about that for a number of weeks. I just need to see what the team looks like [when] we start and as we start playing these games.
“To me, there’s no blueprint. The most important thing for the coaches is to have a really good pulse of the team and how they feel. Recovery is huge. We’ve gone through the schedule three separate times as far as recovery time. So I’m going to take it day-by-day and just see how our day is.”
Youth earning their way
Traditionally, Tortorella is an advocate for having younger players earn spots on the roster. But with the way the season will play out, is there enough time to have a prospect play and learn at the NHL level?
“I don’t know who I’m going to lean on,” Tortorella said. “I have interest in a couple kids down in Hartford. They’ll stay down there and play. To me, it’s not veteran or rookie or young kid. It’s who’s playing best at that time. I am really trying to go in wide open and just see how it plays out. [I’ll] try to make the right decisions. I’ll make some wrong decisions, but I am certainly not going to put a blueprint on it right now, how we go about our business.”
Let’s get physical
Tortorella is a stickler for conditioning. Simply, if an athlete is not in game shape, he will not play.
So the coach was pleased with conditioning work the Rangers — Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan — who went to Europe and Russia received during the lockout.
“As far as the amount of skating they got, I look at Del Z. I was talking to him the other day and I know he did a lot of conditioning with some triple days over there, as far as what he had to do. I think that’s helped him. So to get into some sort of game shape; that helps,” Tortorella said.
Del Zotto signs deal
The Rangers conducted two bits of business prior to the start of training camp by agreeing to terms with Zotto and Matt Gilroy. Del Zotto signed a two-year, $5.1 million deal and Gilroy agreed to a one-year deal worth $650,000.
Del Zotto’s entry-level deal had expired at the end of last season, and he was unable to agree on the parameters of a new contract prior to the lockout. Had he not signed, he would not have been allowed to participate.
“I knew it was going to be one step at a time; couldn’t get a contract done before the CBA was done,” Del Zotto said. “I have a big smile on my face. I’m glad it’s all over with and we can just go out and play hockey.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.