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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Past history, stats hardly a concern to Rangers

NEW YORK -- Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 1987, no team has won the Stanley Cup after playing 14 games over the first two rounds.

The New York Rangers will play their 15th game of the postseason Monday night when they host the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Not surprisingly, coach John Tortorella, to put it nicely, doesn't lend much credence to that statistic.

"That's a bunch of (hogwash)," he said Monday morning.

Statistics that extend 25 years into the past can either be looked at as having deep meaning or so old that they are completely irrelevant. Last season the Boston Bruins won their first-round series in seven games and went on to win the Cup, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992.

The always insightful Ruslan Fedotenko, who is 6-0 in Game 7s in his career and scored twice in Game 7 when the Lightning won the Cup in 2004, offered his thoughts on what statistics mean to him.

"Statistics are all in the past. It doesn't matter what we did in the past," Fedotenko said. "I scored two goals in Game 7, but does that matter? Did I score last two games? No, it doesn't really matter. What's in the past is in the past and there's always a record to break and always a new record to set and things to do. To me, it doesn't matter.

"Each round is different. Each team is different. There's different circumstances, different things. I don't believe in stats, or, 'Oh, I'm 6-0, that means for sure I'm 7-0.' No, it's absolutely not. It doesn't matter what's in the past. It's good in the past I was able to be on the winning side, but it doesn't matter going forward. That's my point of view."

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Rupp well-schooled in Rangers-Devils rivalry

NEW YORK -- Mike Rupp has experienced the Rangers-Devils rivalry from both sides of the Hudson River, and he distinctly remembers the first time he realized how heated it was as a rookie in New Jersey even before playing against New York.

Rupp scored two goals in his first NHL game on Jan. 13, 2003, against the Florida Panthers at Continental Airlines Arena, but he immediately picked up on how much Devils fans hated the Rangers during that contest.

"I just remember the chants when I was playing in New Jersey, the old famous chant when you're playing the Florida Panthers and they're saying, "Rangers (stink)!" Rupp said. "That's the one thing I remember the most, so I thought there must be something to it. It's obviously something special."

Rupp signed with the Rangers this past summer and has experienced six games from the other side of the rivalry this season. He'll take part in a seventh Monday when the Rangers and Devils open their Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden.

The 32-year-old enforcer, just like every player who will lace up the skates for this series, said while it's fun for the fans, the opposition doesn't matter when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.  

"I don't know. I think if you were facing them in the first round, maybe it would feel more like it, if that makes sense," Rupp said. "Right now, we're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team. I don't really think about that. I really don't. I don't look at them as me playing for them or one of our biggest rivals. That's kind of nonexistent right now. Now it's about winning hockey games. It doesn't matter who it's against."

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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 5:23 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Dubinsky still not ready to return to the lineup

Brandon Dubinsky strolled through the Rangers locker room Saturday morning without the aid of a walking boot or crutches, but his lower-body injury doesn't seem to have healed enough to allow him to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dubinsky said Sunday he is still not ready to return to action against the New Jersey Devils Monday night at Madison Square Garden. He was back in the walking boot but itching to play against the rival Devils.

"It's exciting to watch us win and move on to the next round, and it gives me hope and allows me to have something to keep working for, looking forward to coming back and helping this team," Dubinsky told reporters in Greenburgh, N.Y. "It's unfortunate not being able to play, but lucky enough for me the team is winning without me in the lineup. But I think I can still help this team, so it's just a matter of getting back as fast as I can."

Dubinsky suffered his injury during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and missed the entire second-round series against Washington Capitals. In seven games against the Senators, Dubinsky had one assist.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 7:09 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Beagle out, Halpern in for Caps

NEW YORK -- Capitals forward Jay Beagle will not be in the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers on Saturday night, as he did not take part in pregame warmups.

Beagle missed Game 6 of the series on Wednesday with a lower-body injury and did not participate in the game-day skate at Madison Square Garden. He was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Halpern, who had been a healthy scratch since March 23 and will once again be in the lineup. Halpern was a minus-1 in 10:23 of ice time in the Caps' series-tying 2-1 win.

In 12 playoff games, Beagle has one goal and one assist.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 1:22 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers, Caps try to stay loose before Game 7

NEW YORK -- Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman hurled three wadded up balls of tape in the general direction of Jason Chimera, who at the time was surrounded by media and doing an on-camera interview at his locker

The atmosphere wasn't as relaxed in the Rangers' room, but it wasn't exactly filled with human beings who were on edge and biting their nails.

What, the Caps and the Rangers worry about playing in a Game 7?

The decisive game Saturday in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series doesn't appear to placing any added stress on these teams, who were both a loose bunch following their game-day skates at Madison Square Garden.

"It's important to be loose and joking around," said Rangers forward Mike Rupp, who will play in his sixth career Game 7. "Our team has a lot of that going on. I've found when I was younger I'd gauge off the older guys how relaxed they were. I think you can go out and be a little too fired up, so you have to channel that emotion in a certain way."

Once the throng of reporters cleared from Chimera, he fired the balls of tape back in Wideman's direction but hit fellow defenseman Mike Green, who fired a stern glare back at Chimera before cracking a smile.

Caps defenseman John Carlson walked toward his locker after leaving the ice to find center Nicklas Backstrom in his spot, fielding questions from journalists. The 22-year-old jokingly asked for a public-relations person to clear Backstrom from his locker before forcing him out of the area.

"I think we always like to have fun," Carlson said. "Everyone goes out and their morning-skate routines are different. Some guys need to take some things out of it, some people want to work on other things. I think everyone just goes out there and gets what they need to feel the best that night, and I think that for some guys, that's being relaxed."

If these teams are nervous about their seasons being on the line, they certainly aren't showing it.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:59 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps, Rangers boast wealth of Game 7 experience

NEW YORK -- The Capitals and Rangers both went through Game 7s in the first round, so playing another one Saturday night for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Final isn't anything new or jarring.

Each team has a few players that bring a "been there, done that" attitude.

Washington's Roman Hamrlik will play in his ninth Game 7, while Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin will suit up for the sixth Game 7 of their Capitals careers -- all in the past five seasons.
 
New York's Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp will also play in their sixth Game 7. Rupp is 2-3 in his Game 7 appearances, while Fedotenko is a perfect 5-0 with three goals and an assist in those contests.

"I heard one of those guys talking about it yesterday, that it's one of those special days," Rupp said. "It just feels different, like a birthday. It's a special day on the calendar. It's not an ordinary game. You approach it the same way, but we all know what a special night and opportunity it is to play in a Game 7."

Backstrom, Green, Laich and Ovechkin were part of the 2009 squad that rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Rangers in the conference quarterfinals. They were also there two weeks ago when the Capitals won Game 7 in Boston to eliminate the Bruins in the first round.

"We're calm, but we're excited," said Laich, who has a goal and three assists in five Game 7s. "We're ready to play. This group has been through a lot of them. This is our sixth and some people don't play three in their entire career. For whatever reason, we seem to find ourselves in these situations. You have to just trust your stuff and don't overcomplicate things."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:51 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Lundqvist absent, but Tortorella says he's 'just dandy'

NEW YORK -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and forward Marian Gaborik were the only two Rangers who didn't participate in the optional morning skate Saturday. Lundqvist has been known to take skip game-day skates if there is a full practice the previous, but this is the first time he's done it in the playoffs.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Lundqvist is "just dandy" and will play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Rangers forwards Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (wrist) are out. Dubinsky made a brief appearance in the locker room this morning without the aid of a boot or crutches and said he, "defers all questions to Torts" about his injury status. Dubinsky did not participate in the optional skate.

The only true question mark in terms of availability is Caps forward Jay Beagle, who will be a game-time decision due to a lower-body injury. He missed Game 6 of the series and did not participate in the morning skate Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups for Game 7:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Joel Ward - Matt Hendricks - Troy Brouwer
Keith Aucoin - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

RANGERS

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:33 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Beagle unlikely for Caps in Game 7

NEW YORK -- It appears as though Capitals forward Jay Beagle will not be in the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers on Saturday night, although coach Dale Hunter said "game-time" when asked about Beagle's status.

Beagle missed Game 6 of the series with a lower-body injury and did not participate in the game-day skate at Madison Square Garden. He was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Halpern, who had been a healthy scratch since March 23. Halpern was a minus-1 in 10:23 of ice time in the Caps' 2-1 win. Beagle hasn't skated with the team since blocking a shot with right leg during Game 5.

Capitals forward Alexander Semin was also absent from the team's optional practice, but Hunter said he Semin will be in the lineup.

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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers not concerned with low offensive totals

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers aren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard on the way to what could be their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1997.

Entering Game 7 against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers rank 11th in scoring at 2.08 goals per game and are last among the teams still remaining in the postseason.

The Rangers haven't scored more than three goals in a game since Game 1 against Ottawa and have been held to two goals or fewer in nine of 13 games.

Despite that avalanche of statistical information condemning the offense, Brad Richards doesn't see it as a problem heading into Game 7.

"It's really one game," Richards said. "If we win 1-0, it's the same as if we win 5-1. You play the game the way it's being played, and we're not going to abandon our structure just because people are writing about lack of scoring. We just have to win a game."

The Rangers haven't generated much offensively and neither have the Capitals in what has been an extremely tight series. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is a major reason the Rangers are still alive in the postseason with their lack of scoring, posting a 1.73 goals-against average.

Lundqvist said he wouldn't mind some additional support, but understands there isn't much room in the Caps' defensive zone.

"They've been playing pretty tight in their own end," Lundqvist said. "It's tough for us to create scoring chances. I hope that changes tomorrow and we come out and play our best game of the year."

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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Kreider back on Rangers' second line at practice

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's been a roller-coaster month for Chris Kreider with more ups and downs than an elevator in a high-rise office building.

If the line combinations at Rangers practice Friday are any indication, the 21-year-old rookie looks like he's on his way back up again.

Kreider was back on the team's second line on the left wing with center Derek Stepan and right wing Ryan Callahan after spending the past two games playing limited minutes on the fourth line. A gaffe by Kreider in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals led directly to a goal by Alex Ovechkin, and Rangers coach John Tortorella has reined in Kreider ever since.

Kreider was averaging about 17 minutes per game from Game 7 of the Rangers' first-round series against Ottawa up until Game 2 against the Capitals and played 26:17 in New York's 2-1 triple-overtime victory in Game 3.

But since the blunder in Game 4, Kreider hasn't cracked the seven-minute barrier. If he's back with Stepan and Callahan, that will likely change Saturday night in Game 7.

"It always takes a while, especially in this situation, for him to understand how we play, especially the defensive part," Tortorella said. "Really, we haven't overloaded him with too much. That's going to be a process he needs to go through next year. It doesn’t happen overnight. As we've gone through here, we've given him the foundation of it, not overload him, because you just don't want to turn him into a robot."

It took a few games for Kreider to earn Tortorella's trust after signing with the team right before the start of the postseason after winning two national titles in three years with Boston College. Kreider's debut in the NHL was accelerated when left wing Carl Hagelin was suspended for Games 3-5 of the Ottawa series for an elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson.

Kreider improved enough that he stayed in the lineup after Hagelin's return. He scored the winning goal in Game 6 vs. the Senators and had a goal and an assist in Game 1 vs. the Capitals. But Kreider hasn't registered a point since and knows he needs to be better.

"I think my role has been the same in my time that I've been here, regardless of the line I'm playing on," Kreider said. "They probably want more of the same, trying to win puck battles, trying to beat guys to pucks. I think I've learned things every single game regardless of the minutes I've played. It's little nuances, little details."

Kreider was a combined minus-4 between Games 3 and 5 of this series. He said his diminished role in recent games was a motivator to show he can be effective in Game 7.

"I think so," Kreider said. "I think it's kind of hard not to be motivated regardless of the situation here, playing big minutes or small minutes. I was pretty inspired and motivated throughout the playoffs."

With Kreider on the second line, forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has zero goals in 13 games in the playoffs, was on the fourth line with Mike Rupp and John Mitchell. Here's how the lines all looked at practice Friday:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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