NEW YORK -- It will be an especially poignant Mother's Day for New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis when he faces off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
St. Louis learned Thursday that his mother, France, had passed away at age 63. He immediately rushed to Montreal to be with his family before playing in New York's 5-1 Game 5 win in Pittsburgh on Friday. St. Louis' father, Normand, and sister, Isabelle, will be in attendance at MSG on Sunday.
The memory of France St. Louis will no doubt be in all their thoughts as the Rangers, who trail the best-of-7 series 3-2, look to avoid elimination and force a Game 7.
"Obviously it's Mother's Day today. It's a day that is special to me," St. Louis said after the morning skate Sunday. "To have my dad and my sister here, I think it helps the grieving process."
St. Louis' family won't be the only people on hand to assist him through this difficult time. His teammates have voiced their support for the family since hearing the tragic news three days ago. They've rallied around St. Louis in the intervening days and will continue to do so heading into the biggest game of the season.
"The loss for him is tough. Now that it's Mother's Day, you spend the day celebrating her life rather than mourning her loss," defenseman Marc Staal said. "For us, we're happy he's back in the room for us. You want to play great and continue to play for him."
Playing on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, St. Louis did not have a point in Game 5 and was visibly emotional after the win. The poise with which he has handled the past few days has been a shining example for his teammates, who will have a special appreciation for their family this Mother's Day.
"Marty is a big part of this team. I have a lot of respect for the way he handled the past couple of days," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "I hope we can come together as a group when we need to the most."
For the man who has gone through a turbulent week, the support of family, teammates, coaches and fans means a great deal during a difficult period of mourning.
"The guys have been great. Everybody has been so supportive," St. Louis said. "The people that reached out to me, I didn't expect anything less."
Here are the projected lineups: