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Doughty, who in only three years has become one of the NHL’s elite players, was a restricted free agent this summer. He missed training camp because of the lengthy contract negotiations with the Kings that finally produced the lucrative deal.

“Obviously, I have to play my best. I got that contract for a reason _ because I showed people how I could play,” Doughty told The Associated Press. “Now that I have it, I’m obviously not going to step off the gas. I want to continue to get better and better every year, and I know I can do that with experience and maturity.”

As far as the missed practices, Doughty said he has already made up for lost time.

“At the exhibition game in Hamburg I felt a little slow in the first period there, but after that I thought it went pretty well,” he said. “Now I have no excuses. I’m ready to play.”

New York will be without Sean Avery, who was sent to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL after he cleared waivers this week. The move allowed the Rangers to drop his $1.93 million from the team’s salary cap.

The Rangers took advantage of that flexibility and claimed defenseman Jeff Woywitka off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

That will help to somewhat offset the loss of top defenseman Marc Staal, who is on the injured list to start the season because of lingering effects of a concussion sustained on Feb. 22 when he was hit by brother Eric, a star forward with the Carolina Hurricanes.

To make room on the roster for the 28-year-old Woywitka _ a first-round pick by Philadelphia in the 2001 draft _ the Rangers assigned defenseman Stu Bickel to the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League.

Avery lost his spot with the Rangers because Tortorella said the team had players better than him. However, New York will feel the absence of the noted agitator.

“I miss Sean,” Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. “Stuff happens, but whenever guys come or go it’s not the best situation, but you just keep going.”

The Rangers will have five more road games in North America after facing Anaheim on Saturday, before their home opener at renovated Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27 against Toronto.

Los Angeles will go to Berlin on Saturday to face the Buffalo Sabres, play games at New Jersey and Philadelphia, and then host the St. Louis Blues in its home opener on Oct. 18.