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Lightning journal: ‘Rangers of the South’ is the running joke

After Monday's trade deadline, the current Lightning has five former Rangers.
Ryan McDonagh, one of the  Lightning's former Rangers contributing to its "Rangers of the South" nickname, says, "I hope that doesn’t stick much longer past today because I’m proud to be a part of this team.” [Associated Press]
Ryan McDonagh, one of the Lightning's former Rangers contributing to its "Rangers of the South" nickname, says, "I hope that doesn’t stick much longer past today because I’m proud to be a part of this team.” [Associated Press]
Published Mar. 1, 2018

TAMPA — It's not just fans and some in the media having fun with the trades made the past few years between the Lightning and Rangers.

"There is a little bit of a running joke going on in the (locker) room that we are the Rangers of the South," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday.

Monday's trade-deadline addition of D Ryan McDonagh and C J.T. Miller gives the current Lightning five former Rangers. The others: D Anton Stralman, D Dan Girardi and RW Ryan Callahan. And let's not forget F Brian Boyle, a former Ranger who played 21/2 seasons with the Lightning before being traded to the Maple Leafs at last year's deadline.

"The big thing for us is they're competitors," Cooper said on the new additions. "And we need guys who can play hard, can play against big players, have played in big moments. They check all the boxes."

That makes for a smoother landing for the new guys, but McDonagh said he's more interested in being known as a Lightning player than a former Ranger.

"It is kind of a crazy coincidence, but if you ask me, I hope that doesn't stick much longer past today because I'm proud to be a part of this team," McDonagh said. "I'm proud to be a Tampa Bay Lightning, and I want to help add to the success they've had this year and do something special."

Miller time
Much is known what trade-deadline acquisition D Ryan McDonagh brings to the Lightning, but what about C J.T. Miller, who came with him?

"He's got a tremendous skill set, great size, good on faceoffs. He's going to play a big part of this team," captain Steve Stamkos said. "It's going to take him maybe a little bit to get comfortable and confident, but we're looking for him to be a great player for us, and we're excited."

Miller, 6 feet 1 and 218 pounds, had 13 goals and 40 points in 63 games for the Rangers. He has won 54.3 percent of his faceoffs this season.

"I think if I can just bring a physicality and try to get to the net and let these guys make plays with the puck, I think it'll be helpful," Miller said.

Now what?
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, Lightning fans can concentrate on the big picture: a deep playoff run.

First things first, coach Jon Cooper said.

"It's getting everybody healthy," Cooper said. "(RW Nikita Kucherov) is a little banged up right now. We're still waiting on (Ondrej) Palat (lower body). It's going to take a little time getting everybody back together. The key as we get ourselves into the playoffs here is to make sure we are playing as well as we possibly can for any kind of postseason run and to make sure guys are healthy and not rush them back when they can come back."

Injury update

RW Nikita Kucherov, the NHL's leading scorer (82 points), missed Wednesday's game against the Sabres with an upper-body injury. He skated briefly in the morning. His status for tonight's game at Dallas was unknown. D Ryan McDonagh (upper body) said he is targeting a return for March 6, when the Lightning hosts the Panthers.

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50.

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