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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:16 PM

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

Despite early edge, Rangers wary of Senators

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One thing was certain among the New York Rangers on Friday -- they expect the Ottawa Senators to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

That could be disconcerting, as the Senators didn't play poorly in the series opener.

The Rangers used three quick strikes to blow open a one-goal game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But up until that offensive outburst, the Senators were pressing for the tying goal midway through the second period and were a goal away from changing the complexion of the contest.

That tightness of Game 1 wasn't lost on Brad Richards.

"They played really well last night," Richards said. "There was a momentum swing in the game we were able to grab, but they could've grabbed it too. We have to realize we're going to have to be a lot better.

"They had the puck a lot in the second period. If they score a goal and make it 1-1, it might be different."

The Senators held a 22-12 shots advantage at the halfway point of the game and fired home two goals in the third period to make things interesting. The game had long since been decided by the time the Senators made the score respectable, but that late surge combined with the first half of the game definitely grabbed the Rangers' attention.

"They have a great team over there," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "They've got five or six guys that are world-class talents and can be dangerous with the puck. We expect them to be at their best tomorrow. We have to be ready to elevate our game and match their intensity."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Rangers didn't allow trying first half to distract them

NEW YORK -- There wasn't an NHL team that had more of a chance to use distractions as an excuse for poor play this year than the New York Rangers.

They opened the season with a two-week trek through Europe as part of the NHL Premiere Series. Upon their return to the United States, their home, Madison Square Garden, was still undergoing renovations, which meant another long road swing through Western Canada.

That wasn't the end of it, as the Rangers welcomed HBO's "24/7" cameras into their lives for a month in the buildup to the Winter Classic, another event that takes players out of their routines.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Thursday that when his team's hockey life finally returned to normal in January and there wasn't a letdown, he knew he was involved in something special.

"When they left, that's when we gained some normalcy in our room," Tortorella said. "We still have three and a half months to play, and I just watched how our guys went about their business. I was worried about a letdown when the cameras left. I was happy with the way we won (the Winter Classic). That really helped our confidence, and then we just kept on going. That's when I felt we could do something."

The Rangers went on to win the Atlantic Division and capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Tortorella said it all started with the trip to Europe to open the season.

"I think that really helped us as a team and to speed up the process of trying to win consistently and being consistent," Tortorella said. "I thought we were consistent in how we went about our gameday business. That's one thing about this group. Not once this year -- and coaches do it all the time -- did we have to go out there and kick the hell out of them because you didn’t get enough out of them the night before to just make sure you get the message across."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Neil happy if Canada wants to get behind Senators

NEW YORK -- Are the Ottawa Senators "Canada's Team?"

Only two teams from Canada reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year -- the Senators and the Vancouver Canucks. If Canada is looking to pull for one of the two, forward Chris Neil is fine if the nation wants to get behind the Senators.

"We've been there before, going to the Cup Final in '07, so it's fun whenever the whole country gets behind you and cheers for you," Neil said. "We don't really look at it like that. It's the group of guys in here that we pay attention to. You try not to pay attention to what's going on on the outside, who's cheering for who. You just hope when you go out, you're going out and working hard. If you're doing that, fans will come out and support you and cheer loud and get them on your side."

Neil said he didn't get a chance to see the Canucks lose 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their series late Wednesday night.

"I was in bed," Neil said. "I didn't even really watch it. I was getting rested up for tonight."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Projected Game 1 lineups

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will ice the same lineup as they did in their regular-season finale, while the Ottawa Senators will insert Chris Neil into the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday.

The goaltending matchup will be Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers against the Craig Anderson of the Senators.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
Erik Condra - Jim O'Brien - Kaspars Daugavins

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Sergei Gonchar - Jared Cowen
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:08 PM

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

Tortorella preaching discipline as key to series

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach John Tortorella rarely addresses the opposing team. On Wednesday, however, he talked openly about how his team needs to prepare to face the Ottawa Senators in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series that starts Thursday.

The eighth-seeded Senators took three of four from the Rangers in the regular season and boast a power play that finished 11th in the regular season with offensive stars Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson.

Staying out of the penalty box, Tortorella said, is paramount against the Senators.

"They have a very good power play," Tortorella said. "We need to stay within ourselves as far as just going about our business, not getting involved in any antics and keeping our discipline. Discipline is a huge part of the game in the regular season -- it's two-fold come playoffs. We've had many conversations about how we have to handle ourselves."

"They have a great power play," captain Ryan Callahan said. "The key for us is going to be staying out of the box. Our penalty kill is going to have to come up big when needed.

The Senators can also be dangerous at even strength, possessing the ability to capitalize on neutral-zone turnovers. Those mistakes plagued the Rangers in their losses to the Senators this season, and it's something they know they need to remedy starting Thursday.

"We know they beat us, we know they have great players," forward Brian Boyle said. "They have a great offensive lineup. They can transition the puck well and burn you if you turn it over. We know that. I think everybody knows that."

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is familiar with the abilities of fellow Swedes Alfredsson and Karlsson and isn't exactly enthusiastic about having to face them.

"I don't know if I'm looking forward to it," Lundqvist said. "They're great players and I skate with them a lot. I know what type of players they are. They have a lot of skill. I think we're feeling good in here. We're excited to start."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 3:22 PM

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

Richards' concern winning, not proving himself

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brad Richards signed a nine-year, $60 million contract this summer to play for the New York Rangers because he wanted a chance to have success in the spring.

The 31-year-old spoke Wednesday about how he doesn't want to prove himself in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- he just wants another chance to win, an opportunity that's been a rarity since winning a Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

"I don't know if it's prove my worth, I just want to win," Richards said. "I'm in my 30s now. The window is slowly closing. I got to win when I was very young, and I thought I'd get some more shots at it by now. I kind of thought, this will happen more often. It makes you appreciate it. It's nothing to do with the worth -- I want a chance to win.

"You don't know how many shots you've got. We've got a great team and have done a lot of great work this year. You don't know and can't say next year we'll be right back where we are. You don't know. Tons of things can happen over the summer. It's an opportunity for me. But I look at it like that."

When the Rangers face the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Thursday, they will do so with a team that doesn't boast much in the way of postseason experience. Richards said that this team reminds him of the young Lightning team that beat the Calgary Flames in seven games in 2004, and that youth and inexperience don't matter much today.

"This team basically got a look at it last year, some of the young guys," said Richards, who was referring to the Rangers' five-game loss to the top-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round. "Some of the other guys have been in it more than that. So they've probably got a little more than we had in Tampa. There's a lot of young teams in the League that win now. Experience is great, but you have to gain it by winning and getting to the playoffs."

Coach John Tortorella, who was behind the bench in Tampa when Richards also won the Conn Smythe Trophy, likes his team's "innocence" coming into the playoffs.

"I think that's a positive for us," Tortorella said. "I'm really trying to allow the team to not overthink a bunch of stuff and continue to go on with our business. The thing I like about this group here is we've had a lot of different things go on with our club right from the get-go and they have handled themselves very well. We're ready to play. I think they've handled themselves very well the past few days."

Tortorella also warned that this could be the best chance for some of his players to win a Stanley Cup.

"You just never know if you'll have an opportunity again to do it," Tortorella said. "That's why we tell our guys when you get into these type of situations, you need to try to enjoy it, too. Who knows what goes with your career. You may never get another whack at it. We're going to be ready to play. There's no question about that. But I want these guys to enjoy this time of year."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 3:04 PM

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

Having a healthy Callahan huge for Rangers

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The only person who is happier about Ryan Callahan being healthy for this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs than the man himself is probably coach John Tortorella.

"It's nice to have him with a uniform on and not watching," Tortorella said Wednesday, as the Rangers had their final full practice before Thursday's game against the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

It was in Game 80 last season when Callahan blocked a slap shot by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Callahan suffered a broken foot and could only watch as the top-seeded Washington Capitals blitzed the Rangers in five games.

This time around, Callahan is healthy and looking forward to contributing after he was unable to last year.

"This is what you play 82 games for, is this time of year," Callahan said. "Last year was hard for me, missing the playoffs not being able to be part of it. I'm excited for it this year."

In his first year as Rangers' captain, Callahan had a career-best 29 goals and 54 points. He's a fixture on the penalty kill and is a leader when it comes to hitting and blocking shots.

"I look up and down the bench for him all the time, all situations, and now he had developed into quite a leader as far as his next progression that he's gone through this year," said Tortorella, who also praised Callahan's job performance as a captain.

"I think when you get into that type of situation, and he's still a young man, wearing the 'C,' I wasn't sure how he was going to be coming to me as far as our relationship and communicating through that," Tortorella said. "I've gotten to know him better. I think that's very important with your leaders. It's a bit of a conduit from coaching staff to player. That's gone along really smoothly. He doesn't say much. It's gone really well that way."

Defenseman Dan Girardi is happy to have a team that's entirely healthy, and admitted it was a big loss last season to play without Callahan.

"Losing a guy like that going into the playoffs is not good, but I thought we did a good job rallying around it," Girardi said. "I think this year having him, that's going to be awesome."

"He's a big piece," forward Marian Gaborik said. "We're glad he's there and with us and have a healthy team going in. It's very important to have that. We missed him last year. This is a different situation going into the playoffs as a healthy team."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:24 PM

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

Rangers, Kreider agree to entry-level deal

The New York Rangers on Tuesday agreed to terms on an entry-level contract with Boston College's Chris Kreider, the 19th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

The 20-year-old forward will report to Rangers practice Wednesday and is eligible to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Kreider's deal is for three years, but the first year of the contract will be burned when he arrives at practice. TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting Kreider did not receive a signing bonus for this season, but he will receive bonuses if he plays in this year's postseason.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Kreider possesses the size and speed necessary to make the immediate jump from the NCAA to the NHL. In three seasons at Boston College, the Boxford, Mass., native had 49 goals and 43 assists in 114 games and was part of this year's national championship squad.

Kreider had 23 goals and 22 assists in 44 games as a junior.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather has said in the past that he believes Kreider can contribute right away at the NHL level, but it remains to be seen how coach John Tortorella will work him into his lineup, if at all, during the postseason. The Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference and lack any serious injuries to their forwards right now.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators give Zibanejad a look at practice

KANATA, Ont. -- The Ottawa Senators held their second full practice Tuesday afternoon in preparation for their series against the New York Rangers, which begins on Thursday. Here were the lines as they appeared during the skate:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Mika Zibanejad
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
Zack Smith - Jim O'Brien - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

Matt Carkner (lower-body injury) was absent from practice for the second consecutive day, but coach Paul MacLean expects that he will participate in Wednesday's skate. O'Brien took a puck off his hand and left practice early. MacLean said he will be evaluated but he didn't hear anything "drastic about it" from the team's physical trainers.

Mika Zibanejad was given time as a top-six forward, leading to additional speculation that the No. 6 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft could see action during the Senators' postseason. Zibanejad, who had one assist in nine games for the Senators at the start of the season before he was returned to Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Elite League, will head to Binghamton to play in the final two games of the season, after which he would be made available to the big club.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Zibanejad said. "We'll take it day by day. I'm just doing what the coach and [Bryan] Murray wants me to do. Obviously, you hear so much about the playoffs and you want to be a part of it. But I'm here to work hard and just make sure I'm ready when the opportunity comes up.

"[Zibanejad] brings speed and offensive ability, there's no question," Daniel Alfredsson said. "He's been playing in Sweden most of the year and getting lots of ice time. We haven't seen him much lately, but he's looking good in practice. We'll see what the coaches decide."

"We wanted to see how [Zibanejad's] done, now with his season over, and just give him an opportunity to practice with our best guys and see how he looked," MacLean said. "I think right now he's going to Binghamton to play with them this weekend, and he'll be available to us if we feel like we can use him. Basically we're seeing how he's progressed. I thought he skated real good, but he's still a young player."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 12:38 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Lundqvist to be featured on Sports Illustrated cover

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated (Click image to enlarge)

After a sparkling regular season that may earn him a Vezina Trophy, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

The last Ranger to appear on the magazine's cover was Wayne Gretzky on April 26, 1999, in recognition of his retirement from the NHL.

Lundqvist and the Rangers will start their postseason Thursday night (7 ET, NHLN) against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Lundqvist set career-highs in wins (39) goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.930) this season.

Lundqvist's cover is one of two Sports Illustrated will issue this week. Golfer Bubba Watson, who won The Masters on Sunday, will appear on the other cover.

Past Rangers on Sports Illustrated cover:

* Wayne Gretzky -- April 26, 1999
* Mark Messier & Wayne Gretzky -- October 7, 1996
* Mark Messier -- June 13, 1994
* Pete Stemkowski -- May 6, 1974
* Ed Giacomin -- March 2, 1970
* Andy Bathgate -- January 12, 1959

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