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Ryan Callahan leads trio of ex-Rangers into the Garden

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Ryan CallahanChris O’Meara/AP

Ryan Callahan

Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle all suited up for practice at Madison Square Garden Friday afternoon on the eve of the Eastern Conference Final. They just weren’t wearing Rangers colors.

Instead, the three former Blueshirts were clad in Lightning gear, all three of them members of a Tampa Bay team that will try to keep the Rangers from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season.

“It’s the Conference Final. I think, no matter what building you’re walking into, it’s an exciting time,” said Callahan, who is officially day-to-day but appears ready to play in Game 1 just five days after an emergency appendectomy. “I think the last time I walked in here there was a lot more emotion and feelings about it being the first time back. Now it’s more of a business trip. We’re coming in here and trying to win.”

RELATED: RANGERS VS. LIGHTNING – BREAKING DOWN THE MATCHUPS

Callahan, the former Rangers captain, was shipped to Tampa Bay last season at the trade deadline in the deal that brought former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis to New York. Meanwhile, Stralman and Boyle were crucial pieces in the Rangers run to the Cup Final. General Manager Glen Sather let both players walk during the offseason, opening the door for the Lightning to seize an opportunity.

“I think it’s no coincidence that you look at the games played in the playoffs for Boyle, Stralman, Callahan over the last few years, it speaks volumes to what these guys bring at this time of the year,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I know that when we went into the free agent period last year, we were looking for those type of guys, like winners and guys that know how to get it done when it matters the most. We knocked it out of the park getting these guys.”

“(The series) is a little bit of made for TV,” he continued. “How often do two captains get traded for each other? …It’s great for the game. I think it’s just going to add that much more intrigue. You’ll see both teams digging their heels in on this one.”

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