OTTAWA -- So how did the New York Rangers welcome Colton Orr to their dressing room after the former Boston slugger was picked up on NHL waivers back on November 29th?
Many of these Rangers, after all, had done battle with Orr as members of the Hartford Wolf Pack in recent seasons. The Wolf Pack and Orr's former club, the Providence Bruins, share a fierce AHL blood feud.
That on-ice animosity spilled over into this NHL preseason when Orr tangled with the Blueshirts at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Orr and Ryan Hollweg exchanged pleasantries, and Orr fought tough Joe Rullier, who is now in Hartford. Orr followed up the Rullier scrap by tangling with Dale Purinton, who drew a match penalty for what the NHL deemed to be eye-gouging.
"I fought some of these guys in this room," Orr said after Monday night's game in Ottawa. "But it's behind us. You don't think about it. They're teammates now."
"You just look back at it and laugh. Now we go out and look after each other."
Purinton picked up a 10-game season-opening suspension for his actions, and the NHL/AHL bubble defenceman has had a bust of a season.
No worries for Orr, though. The 22-year-old from Winnipeg who split his WHL career between Swift Current, Kamloops and Regina has adapted to his new life with the Rangers.
"It's been good," Orr said of the move to New York. "We've got a great team here."
Orr, who has yet to pick up a point in 23 NHL games, has not dressed for the Rangers' past seven games, and his absence on Monday night prevented a rematch with Ottawa's Brian McGrattan, who along with Orr and Syracuse's Brandon Sugden, was among the AHL's elite enforcers last season. Orr and McGrattan have already battled once this season, that scrap coming back on November 10th in Boston.
Skating last season for Providence against many of the Rangers who spent last season in Hartford and whom he now calls teammates, what did Orr see of this young scrappy bunch of Rangers?
"They've got a really good group of guys here in this organization," Orr said. "There is a good variety of guys here, hard-working and skilled."
Orr himself also benefited from his time in the AHL last season. No longer just called upon to provide muscle, Orr skated a regular shift playing for head coach Scott Gordon last season in Providence and wound up playing a solid third-line role.
"I got a good chance to play there. It was a great year to be down there. We had a great team there and had a good run (in the playoffs)."
"They're good player coaches," Orr said of Gordon, assistant Rob Murray and former captain Brent Thompson, who hung up the skates this past summer and is now an assistant coach in Peoria. "They talk to you and tell you what you have to do better. They helped me a lot, and I appreciate that."