After being a seamless fit following a mid-season trade with the Minnesota Wild last year, Nino Niederreiter’s 2019-20 regular season didn’t go the way he wanted, with just 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games.
However, following a lengthy pause amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Niederreiter has a clean slate going into the NHL’s return to play. He discussed that and more with the media on a Zoom call Saturday:
On practicing coming off an off day: To be honest, it was fairly easy, because we all know what we’re here for and we want to practice and battle as hard as we can. I feel like everybody’s well-motivated and days like yesterday, everybody enjoys the day off. You can go out, golf a little bit, get your mind off it and just enjoy the time you can outside.
On how close the team is to game ready: I think we are fairly close, because at the end of the day everyone basically has to go through the same emotions. The question is who prepares the best to get there in Toronto and play the best hockey you can.
On if he’d rather practice another week or just play: I think everybody is just excited to go to Toronto and get their games going. Even today, we had some good battle drills and had a little scrimmage. We’re excited about that.
On how he spent the time during the pause: I had a good opportunity. I flew right back to Switzerland. Most things were closed as well there, but I got to train with a couple of my friends. I had a chance to practice there most days through the whole time. Fairly quickly, the ice arenas opened up and I had a chance to skate with a bunch of the guys, so for me personally it was fairly easy to stay in shape and keep it going.
On how big a threat the coronavirus was in Switzerland: I mean, it’s tough to say. Obviously we’re the neighbor country of Italy, Austria and France. For us, we just had to kind of follow what they did. Once the border closed on all sides, we just kind of stayed in our own bubble. Restaurants started closing up, and so it was quiet for about five to six weeks, and then things are slowly starting to open up again. Things are looking very solid right now there.
On the team getting its legs back: I think the biggest thing for us, like Rod probably mentioned, we’ve just got to get game ready and do all the little things right. Get our system going well enough to get going. For us, we just have to make sure we have a really good first game, I think that’s what matters most.
On anxiety coming to America amid COVID-19: It was definitely weird. A bunch of my friends are very curious if we’re actually going to play or not at the end of the day, but when I heard the news that we’re playing and we’ve got to come over, then at the end of the day it’s your job and you look forward to it. For me, it was a no-brainer to come over as quick as you can and get ready for the games.
On the earlier Rangers games: They’re a very fast team. Obviously they have some high talent and a lot of great players. But at the end of the day, we can’t focus too much on what they’re going to do. We’ve got to play how we play best, and I think that’s how we have a chance to beat them.
On team chemistry: I think the biggest thing for us is we were definitely a very highly-motivated team. I think that’s huge going into a situation like this. Everybody’s looking forward to going to Toronto and you always have some ups and downs during the season with a couple big losses of some very important players. But we still always find a way to win some hockey games and that’s not going to be any different.
On hitting the reset button after a tough season: I definitely was not very happy about my season, personally, what I had this year. For me, it was definitely huge to hit the reset button and get it going here in the playoffs.