Darius doing AHL grind

PATRICK WILLIAMS -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 1:01 PM ET

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Darius Kasparaitis stood in the Hartford Wolf Pack's dressing room on Sunday evening fielding media questions after a hard-fought 2-1 win over the rival Bridgeport Sound Tigers when a team staffer called his name.

The team next skates on Tuesday, the staffer told the veteran NHL defenceman. In the meantime, just get some rest.

Kasparaitis can use a day to kick back after his AHL baptism by fire this past week.

Four games in five nights -- or five games in seven nights in two leagues on two coasts, depending on your perspective -- and a transcontinental red-eye flight later, Kasparaitis finally ended his first week in the AHL on Sunday night.

Kasparaitis afterward said, "I guess I'm in good shape, you know what I mean? I'm feeling pretty good."

The 3-7-1-0 Wolf Pack, last in the AHL's Eastern Conference, picked up a badly needed win behind a 31-save effort from goalie prospect Al Montoya to close out a stretch of four games in five nights.

Kasparaitis played all four of those AHL games after the parent New York Rangers assigned him to Hartford last Tuesday on a 10-day conditioning stint. Kasparaitis also played 14:14 of a 4-1 Rangers loss in Los Angeles last Monday night before hopping the red-eye back east following his assignment.

The rough-and-tumble NHLer then caused a stir in his AHL debut last Wednesday in Hartford for a crunching hit on Portland's Tim Brent, who has since been out of the Pirates' line-up.

Still, the transition has not been completely smooth for Kasparaitis, who went scoreless and minus-2 over four AHL games this past week. The NHL veteran even found his way into head coach Jim Schoenfeld's rather crowded dog house for a stretch this past weekend.

On Sunday, Kasparaitis, playing the left side of a pairing with Czech veteran Martin Richter, continued the adjustment to the AHL's different pace and far more physical nature. His Bridgeport visit even included heckling from a group of Sound Tigers fans during warm-up.

"The AHL is a tough league, you know? You always have to keep your head up because guys are going full-out because they're fighting to be in the NHL. Every game, guys want to show their best hockey. They're never satisfied, and they're always trying to improve. Every game is like that."

"It's a very fun league to watch and to be involved [in]."

What happens after the 10-day conditioning stint remains to be seen for Kasparaitis. The 34-year-old Lithuanian could prove to be a difficult player for the Rangers to unload while carrying a $3.2 million contract for this season and coming off two offseason surgeries.

But for his part, Kasparaitis is taking his demotion in stride, even if he says that he does not know where his NHL future may or may not be. The Hartford stint has helped him regain some confidence, Kasparaitis said, as he works on climbing back to the NHL.

"I just want to prove to the Rangers that they need me, but at the same time other teams are watching probably, and I'm working hard to be back in the NHL."

"I'm just waiting for the call and to see what is going to happen. But I'm having fun here with the younger guys."

That said, when the conditioning stint ends, it remains a possibility that the Rangers could simply elect to waive Kasparaitis and stash him in Hartford if he clears NHL waivers.

Such a move would make him yet another exiled NHLer in the AHL, the likes of Lowell's Grant Marshall and Dan McGillis, and Petr Nedved, Nolan Baumgartner and Niko Dimitrakos of the Philadelphia Phantoms being among the others.


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