'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov came very close to achieving their dream of reaching the Stanley Cup finals while teammates with the New York Rangers.
Adam Henrique's Game 6 overtime winner clinched the 2012 Eastern Conference finals for the rival Devils. When Dubinsky and Anisimov skated off the ice at Prudential Center and walked into the visiting locker room, they would pull off the famous "Original Six" sweater for the very last time.
"It was hard for us as a team," Dubinsky said. "We were close to making the finals. It's still pretty fresh in the memory. We came back and tied both of those games up, and found ways to lose tough ones there. If they could've gone the other way, who knows what wouldn't happened."
Had things gone slightly differently, the Rangers would have reached their first Stanley Cup finals since that magical year of 1994. It's up for debate whether the Rangers would have had enough gas left in their tank to topple the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings. Perhaps, Henrik Lundqvist could have outdueled Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick and the Rangers would have parading the Stanley Cup down "The Canyon of Heroes."
Had that been the case, Rangers general manager Glen Sather wouldn't have been as eager to send two of his homegrown talents to Columbus to land prized sniper Rick Nash. On July 23, 2012, Dubinsky and Anisimov were shipped away as part of the blockbuster deal that brought Nash and his all-world ability to Manhattan.
Anisimov didn't mince words when asked what he'll remember most about his time with the Rangers.
"My favorite memory was when we reached the Conference Finals," Anisimov said. "This was my favorite moment with the Rangers."
Some Rangers fans might remember Anisimov most for his rifle celebration after scoring a memorable shorthanded goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in December 2011. Anisimov bent down on one knee and to mimic firing shots at Lightning players using his stick. Lightning star Steven Stamkos called the incident "classless."
"Of course, I remember," Anisimov said. "Everybody remembers!"
DUBINSKY AND ANISIMOV RETURN TO MSG AS VISITORS
On Thursday, Dubinsky and Anisimov will take the Garden ice for the first time wearing the away uniform of the Blue Jackets.
"It's going to be a great experience today," Anisimov said.
The Blue Jackets will become familiar foes for the Rangers as the season goes on as they're now both members of the Metropolitan Division. Only two points separate sixth-place Columbus and fourth-place New York.
"It's exciting and I look forward to a big challenge tonight," Dubinsky said. "It's a huge game, it's an important game, which makes it that much better -- us being in the same division and fighting for that playoff spot."
Dubinsky said he must control his emotions and not get too caught up on the moment of facing his former team.
"You've got to definitely channel those emotions the right way," Dubinsky said. "I'm sure it's going to be a little different feeling being on this side of the ice to start the game. After the first couple shifts, we'll settle in and try to help the Jackets get a win here."
DUBI: 'I LOVED MY TIME HERE'
Dubinsky said he hopes Rangers fans will remember his hardworking, gusty shifts while representing the Blueshirts.
"It's a great fan base and a blue-collar fan base. I think they appreciate guys that work hard," Dubinsky said. "I think during my time here, I was one of those guys."
"Overall, looking back on my time here (I have) nothing but amazing things to say about the organization, the fan base, the city," Dubinsky said. "I loved my time here and I was excited to get back here."
DUBINSKY CONCERNED ABOUT CALLAHAN, STAAL
Ryan Callahan and Dubinsky were close friends during the years together in the organization. They came up through the minors together and sat next to one another in the Rangers' locker room.
Dubinsky said he's kept in touch with a number of former teammates about non-hockey things through text messages, including Callahan and Marc Staal, both of whom are currently sidelined due to concerning injuries.
Callahan suffered a left MCL sprain against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
"Obviously, I feel bad for Cally," Dubinsky said. "You never want to see a guy get hurt, let alone a close friend like that. It's an unfortunate stretch for him. He's had a few injuries. I know it's tough on him and I know he wants to be in the lineup tonight. I guess selfishly -- if there's one game I wouldn't want Cally to play, it would be tonight. I know how important he is to that team and what he brings to the ice every night. He's a great player and a great leader for them. I'm sure he'll be missed on their side tonight, hopefully it helps our chances."
Staal's return date is uncertain as he sustained a concussion against the Devils on Saturday.
"I texted with Marc, non-hockey related," Dubinsky said. "I don't know the extent of how he's feeling. Obviously, with his history -- I hope he's feeling better than he was when he was going through (concussion symptoms) when I was there. Another tough thing to see."
DUBINSKY ON THE CAST OF CHARACTERS IN RANGERS' ROOM
"We had a pretty big core group of guys that sort of grew up together, played in Hartford together or were drafted or signed around the same time," Dubinsky said. "That core turned into what's now basically the leadership group over there with Girardi, Staal and Cally. We had a close group."
Dubinsky remembers busting out dancing to old-school hip hop jams with Michael Del Zotto and Brian Boyle. Del Zotto always supplied the locker room playlist.
"That was Del Zotto… DJ Del Zotto over there," he recalled.
Boyle is known to be a player who keeps the locker room loose with his unique sense of humor.
"Boyle is a funny guy," Dubinsky remembered. "He's a character, a great guy, a great guy for the room and a good player, too. He was a good teammate to have."
Now, Dubinsky is the other side. He said he doesn't look back angrily about being separated from the close-knit Rangers locker room. He's happy with his new life in Columbus.
Brandon and his wife, Brenna, recently welcomed the birth of a son, Brady Charles Dubinsky, on Dec. 4. Brady was born at a very healthy 8 pounds.
"He's a tall guy," Dubinsky said of his newborn son. "Hopefully, he doesn't get too tall and chooses basketball."
Dubinsky said he is enjoying his laid back environs in friendly Ohio.
"Columbus is a great place to play and a great city," Dubinsky said. "I was able to settle in nicely. The people are friendly, they've got great golf courses, the fans are great, the building is great. It's just a warm place to live, a nice place to live. I can't emphasize enough how much I enjoyed living in New York. It's a change and a good one, too."
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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