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Flyers, Rangers, Devils test the ice at MetLife Stadium in practices for Stadium Series games

NHL: Stadium Series - MetLife Stadium preparations

Feb 12, 2024; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Preparations at MetLife Stadium for this weekend’s Stadium Series hockey games. Mandatory Credit: Kevin R. Wexler-USA TODAY Sports

NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Things seemed to be very relaxed as the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils took turns testing the ice on the recently installed rink at MetLife Stadium in preparation for two big games in the NHL’s Stadium Series this weekend.

Instead of loosening up for the workouts, each of the teams skated onto the ice and gathered for team photos. The practices were a little different.

The Flyers, who had arrived after playing a game in Toronto on Thursday night, seemed to be stretching their legs and getting used to the ice a day before facing the Devils on Saturday night.

The Rangers and Devils, who played at home on Thursday, ran some full-speed drills although the Devils were on the ice about 20 minutes less than their Metropolitan Division rivals, who will play the Islanders on Sunday. The Islanders practiced on the surface on Thursday.

After each practice, many players got to skate with the families and children on the ice, something that rarely happens.

“You just never know where these games go,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said. “There’s a lot of things going around the players. It’s my job just to just get the team ready to play after they’re done with their families, just to get them ready to play. A very important game for us.”

The Rangers have opened an eight-point lead in the division, while the Flyers are in third place with 65 points. The Devils and Islanders are two and three points out of the last playoff spot, respectively.

As expected, the Rangers were the loosest team after the workouts.

Defenseman Jacob Trouba was asked about the organization being 4-0 in outdoor games and new coach Peter Laviolette sporting an 0-3-1 mark in the series.

“We need a new coach,” Trouba quipped. As he was leaving the news conference, Trouba asked everyone not to tell Laviolette, who was up next on the podium.

Fellow Rangers defenseman Adam Fox grew up on nearby Long Island and he is thrilled to be playing in the game which will be played in an 80,000-seat stadium that is co-owned by the Jets and Giants of the NFL. The crowds for the hockey games will be about 70,000, the league said.

“I didn’t go to too many, football games,” Fox said. “I grew up a Jets fan. We came to the the home opener for the Giants, though, this year. Didn’t go all that well. Hopefully we have a little better result than that.”

The Giants lost their home opener 40-0 to the Dallas Cowboys and missed the playoffs, a year after making the postseason for the first time since 2016.

The Flyers have been one of the surprise teams of the NHL season and they are using the Jets’ locker room.

Forward Cam Atkinson, a 34-year-old Connecticut native, will be playing in his first outdoor NHL game. He did play in one at Fenway Park for Boston College.

Looking around the locker room after the workout, Atkinson asked reporters: “Where’s Aaron Rodgers’ locker?” He wasn’t near it.

The Devils had the last practice of the evening and they and family members were finishing up at 7:30 p.m.

“I thought it was really good and I think they feel it’s going to be better tomorrow,” Tortorella said of the ice.

Devils coach Lindy Ruff told his players to embrace being on the big stage, while understanding its importance.

“We’re chasing them down for a spot in the playoffs” Ruff said after the workout. “Any time you get an opportunity to play a team that is in one of the spots ahead of you, it’s a big game. I think we realize that and they realize that. We need the two points. We need every point we can get.”

Veteran defenseman Brendan Smith has played in a couple of NHL outdoor games and players have approached him to discuss what its like. Smith tells teammates is to enjoy the experience and try to ignore the distractions.

”You’re there trying to win two points,” Smith said. ‘That’s really what we’re gonna do now. It’s an amazing atmosphere. It’s so fun to be a part of this. I’ve been lucky to be a part of a lot of them, and they’re all my favorite games.”

They are even better when you win.